What Is Recreational Therapy For Addiction?

Addiction Treatment Using Recreational Therapy

According to the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC), there are currently more than 19,000 recreational therapists in the United States. Many treatment centers may offer recreational therapy for addiction, but what does that mean?

Let’s talk about the role recreational therapy can play in addiction recovery for clients and how to find substance abuse treatment with effective forms of therapy at Icarus Behavioral Health in New Mexico.

Keep reading to find out more about adventure and recreational forms of therapy, and how they help our clients achieve success with Icarus!

What is Recreational Therapy?

What is Recreational Therapy

Recreational therapy refers to the therapeutic use of leisure activities to treat mental health conditions like substance use disorders, eating disorders, and other conditions. Examples of leisure activities include yoga, art, spending time with animals, and other enjoyable hobbies.

Sometimes, recreational therapy is also called recreation therapy or therapeutic recreation. As a result, you may hear these terms used interchangeably. Recreational activities uniquely aid the healing process. Activities used in therapy are often cathartic in nature and promote helpful life skills.

Recreational therapies are frequently used as a part of drug or alcohol addiction treatment programs. This is true whether you attend inpatient or outpatient care. Many people find that recreational therapy is an incredibly valuable part of their treatment plan.

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Why Does Recreational Therapy For Substance Abuse Work?

When you are in the recovery process, it is essential to find new coping tools and healthy leisure activities that will set you up for success post-treatment. Overcoming addiction involves building a sustainable sober lifestyle, self-awareness, and the ability to turn toward support systems when needed. Recreational activities used in recreational therapy for addiction help you establish important skills, function in diverse settings, work with others, and build new interests.

There’s a wide range of activities you can participate in that count as and can be used for recreational therapy.

Activities used in recreational therapies for addiction

Activities used in recreational therapies for addiction

We went over a few examples of recreational activities addiction treatment centers use, but what all counts? Activities used in recreation therapy for addiction recovery and similar concerns (e.g., other forms of mental illness) can include but aren’t limited to:

  • Creative writing
  • Community outings
  • Arts and crafts
  • Animal therapy
  • Drama therapy
  • Music
  • Dance
  • Yoga
  • Rock climbing
  • Volunteering
  • Hiking
  • Board games
  • Word games
  • Meditation

Examples of community outings you might participate in can include activities like going to an animal shelter or taking a nature walk outdoors. Different types of recreational therapy will be most suitable for different people. It’s okay if you don’t like every therapeutic recreation activity you try. As you can see, the options are far and wide.

The Benefits Of Recreational Therapy For Drug And Alcohol Addiction

Actively participating in fun activities you enjoy promotes feelings of happiness and can assist whole-body healing. Recreational therapy can help you discover something you enjoy, but the advantages don’t end there. Benefits of recreational therapy for addiction treatment include but aren’t limited to the following.

Social skills

Many therapeutic recreation activities are group activities. As a result, you can build social skills through recreational therapies. Communication skills and teamwork are common takeaways from therapeutic recreation activities, which transfer to other parts of life.

For example, if you strengthen your ability to work with others in treatment, it can benefit you in the workplace, home life, or in another part of life that is relevant to you as an individual later on.

Mental health benefits

Music therapy, art therapies, and physical activity all have proven mental health benefits. Activities utilized in recreational therapy sessions often double as coping skills you can use to self-soothe, work through negative feelings, build self-esteem, overcome trauma, and more. Similarly, many recreational activities like meditation, yoga, and art have calming effects.

Physical health benefits

Physical activity-based interventions are a great opportunity to get the benefits of exercise. Social activities have the potential to improve physical health markers, whereas people who have fewer positive social connections are likely to face worse health.

There is also the role of leisure in stress reduction. Even non-physical leisure activities like art can reduce stress, which is beneficial for both mental and physical health.

Problem-solving skills

Activities used in recreation therapy require problem-solving skills and can support brain health. For example, card games, board games, and art can aid working memory and cognitive function – all of which are important for those overcoming substance abuse. You might find that recreational therapies give your brain a “boost” not just in terms of mood but in functionality.


Benefits Of Recreational Therapy

If you’re a first-time client, it’s normal to wonder what treatment will look like day-to-day. Similar to individual therapy, group therapy, and family sessions, recreation therapy adds structure to your day while you are in treatment. Recreational activities set you up for success after treatment, too, because you get used to engaging in them as part of your day or week.

Positive treatment experiences

Many clients find that recreational activities are their favorite part of treatment. Recreational therapy can encourage a positive attitude in treatment and recovery. In relevant cases, it can help people break patterns of trouble with the law and stay in recovery.

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What Does Research Say About Recreational Therapy For Drug Addiction?

The benefits of therapeutic recreational activities are backed by extensive research. This includes research on recreational therapy as a general topic as well as a variety of specific activities.

One study on people with alcohol use disorder found that recreational therapy improved affective (mood) states and lowered stress levels among participants. Similarly, research on recreation therapy for substance abuse shows that recreation therapy promotes intrinsic motivation as well as physical, leisure, social, and daily life functioning. Intrinsic motivation is another word for internal motivation and can support healing efforts.

As stated above, there’s also evidence to support specific activities treatment centers use in recreational therapy. For example, decades of research on yoga note that it can have positive impacts on those with mental disorders, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and drug addiction, as well as other concerns, like body image and pain management.

It is okay to feel nervous about getting help for alcohol and drug abuse, and it is also normal to have nerves before you try new leisure activities. Clients often surprise themselves with the newfound abilities and self-confidence they experience after engaging in recreational therapy regularly.

The Tools and Structure for Long Term Recovery

Recreational activities add structure to your day and can become a part of your life even after drug and alcohol treatment. Activities used for this form of care are hands-on and provide a positive opportunity to help you learn about yourself.

Alongside other forms of care, like behavioral therapy and group therapy sessions, recreational therapy supports overall functioning and helps address your needs as a whole person in the world. Many clients state that recreational therapy has been one of their favorite parts of treatment and that the activities undertaken here have become favorites in their daily lives in recovery.

Your Destination for Addiction Treatment In New Mexico

Addiction Treatment In New Mexico

Icarus Behavioral Health offers cutting-edge substance abuse and mental health treatment based in New Mexico. We offer inpatient, outpatient, and long-term rehab, as well as medical detox for alcohol and drug use.

The treatment programs at Icarus Behavioral Health provide clients with a full spectrum of increasingly popular therapies and tools that help them meet their goals and find healing. We understand that no two clients are alike and have a range of programs available, including dual diagnosis programs.

Our addiction specialists are here to help you or your loved one seeking care. Contact Icarus Behavioral Health now for a confidential discussion of your situation and to learn about options for joining our growing family of clients in successful recovery!

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FAQs on Recreational Therapy For Addiction Treatment

What is the best form of treatment for addiction?

Every person has different needs when it comes to treatment and recovery from addiction. The best treatment for one client may not be the same as it is for another. In most treatment centers, you will get an individualized treatment plan that is catered to your needs. Typically, treatment plans are determined during the intake process for treatment, where a professional works with you to understand your needs. As you move through the recovery process, your care team can adjust your treatment plan and goals as needed.

Individualized treatment plans such as those offered at Icarus Behavioral Health allow people to achieve long-term sobriety through various collaborative forms of care. You may work with a number of professionals at Icarus Behavioral Health, such as social workers, psychiatrists, and counselors. The idea is to be cared for and learn how to best care for yourself as a whole person.

How does recreational therapy help with rehabilitation?

Recreational therapy has become increasingly popular since the American Therapeutic Recreation Association, also known as ATRA, was formed in 1984. There are many benefits to recreational therapy for people like you who are seeking recovery from drug and alcohol use.

Recreational therapy helps with rehabilitation by:

  • Teaching new skills (e.g., team building skills and problem-solving skills)
  • Helping people find physical activities they enjoy (like yoga and hiking), which leads to the production of natural endorphins
  • Building self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Helping individuals form powerful relationships and overcome feelings of isolation
  • Promoting or rebuilding motor skills

Recreational therapy is used alongside behavioral therapy and other forms of support in addiction treatment centers. This way, clients get a full spectrum of support and tools that aid relapse prevention.

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