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Recreation Therapy: Finding Enjoyment During Challenging Times

Posted on February 16, 2021

Theresa Asbury and Al Kaye, recreation therapists at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation CenterPatients at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center experience a holistic approach to treatment. This means that not only do staff prioritize physical healing, they also focus on mental and emotional healing. One part of the holistic approach to healing at Patricia Neal is recreation therapy.

The goal of recreation therapy is to restore, remediate or rehabilitate in order to improve independence as well as to reduce or eliminate the effects of illness and/or disability. Recreation therapists use a wide range of treatment techniques to build on an individual’s current abilities and develop skills necessary to resume life in an age-appropriate environment.

“As kids, we learn through play behavior,” said Al Kaye, recreation therapist at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center. “Recreation therapy uses the same idea to reteach individuals during recovery. Research shows that those who are more invested in enjoying their lives do better and heal better.”

Normally, this form of therapy comes slightly later in the rehabilitation process as the initial focus is typically on functional goals (walking, talking, swallowing, etc.) As the patient improves, they will demonstrate a need for leisure education in order to adjust to their disability.

“I like to call it ‘disguise therapy’,” said Theresa Asbury, recreation therapist at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center. “We give people the opportunity to try something new and fun given their new limitations. Something happens, and you usually don’t realize how much you’re gaining until later in the recovery process after you’ve left the hospital.”

Recreation therapy is a part of the overall rehabilitation team intervening with physician orders. The treatment goals of recreation therapy will focus on the goals of the rehabilitation team using its unique strategies to improve physical, behavioral and cognitive goals.

Recreation therapy rehabilitation can:

  • Decrease overall length of hospitalization
  • Decrease the traumatic psychological effect of hospitalization or trauma
  • Decrease family stress
  • Increase patient awareness of problem areas and potential solutions
  • Increase patient’s ability to remain involved in a healthy, active, leisure lifestyle regardless of level of functioning
  • Assist patient’s integration back into the community

“I get to see people long-term, and so does Al,” Asbury said. “I see people go from thinking their life is over to hearing about major life milestones and genuinely thriving.”

Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center patients benefit from recreation therapy services through the entire continuum of care. Inpatient activities to facilitate recreation therapy include arts and crafts, board games, technology-assisted skills, social pragmatics, sports, gardening, accessibility and safety education, mindfulness, time management, and much more. Once the patient rejoins the community, opportunities abound with various community organizations, long-term support groups and the unique Patricia Neal Innovative Recreation Cooperative (IRC).

“I love working with the Patricia Neal IRC and seeing patients long-term after they are out of the hospital,” Kaye said. “Recreation is a huge part of who we are, and I’m fortunate to be a part of helping someone rebuild their life.”

Learn more about recreation therapy at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center.


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