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Celebrating Recreational Therapy Month


A recreation room is shown, with ping pong table on the left, air hockey on the right, and exercise equipment against the back wall.
Part of the activity room on the unit. The mural was done with patient input and assistance.

You’ll likely get a wide variety of responses when you ask someone what a recreation therapist does. After nearly 15 years in the field, I still sometimes have trouble explaining exactly just what I do! But, as we finish celebrating Recreational Therapy Month (which was February), I want to highlight what my program looks like and what the goals of a recreation therapist are.

I work on the regional Inpatient Psychiatric Unit at Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace. I’m responsible for the majority of group programs on the unit, as well as maintaining and stocking the activity areas, and one-on-one assessments of patients’ leisure interests and preferences.

We follow a psychosocial rehabilitation (PSR) approach for treatment within mental health or addictions services, and within acute units. PSR guidelines state that a regular program of activities is one of the key ways we can reduce incidents of violence and assist with recovery. This is more than keeping patients “busy,” although that is part of it. When people are staying in the unit, they have the same strengths and skills, and similar needs as they do to when they’re not in the unit. Our group programs focus on:

  • Coping skills
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Stress management
  • Strengths
  • Values
  • Creative expression
A chair and couch sit next to a book shelf with pamphlets on it.
Once a woodworking shop, this room is a space groups and BC Schizophrenia Society Family peer support volunteers.

Gathering on weekday mornings, we have community meetings where patients can ask questions, make suggestions, meet each other, and set goals for the day. Our team aims to encourage purposeful and meaningful activities that people can replicate at home or in the community. This is definitely a team job, and the unit benefits from a recreation assistant, many skilled nurses, and a vocational support worker who spends a portion of her time on the unit. We also try to incorporate seasonal activities, like:

  • Gardening
  • Walks
  • Community outings
  • Social gatherings

Finding opportunities for patients to be involved in the larger community brings me pride. Before Christmas, several patients were able to make decorations for a tree that was auctioned off in support of a fundraiser through the Dr. R.E.M. Lee Hospital Foundation’s Festival of Trees. Patients were very proud of their contribution to the community and I believe participating helped their recovery.

A Christmas tree with gold and white decorations is in front of an office.
Patients made and decorated most of the ornaments for the Terrace Festival of Trees, and were pleased to give to the community.

In the future, the Terrace program will hopefully include pet therapy visits, peer support, guest presentations, and more!