Recreational Therapy and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

Recreational Therapy and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

Recreational therapy, or therapeutic recreation (TR), is a treatment type that utilizes recreational interests and activities to help patients with mental disorders, physical illness and disabilities to improve their ability to function independently and socially. A certified therapeutic recreation specialist (CTRS) works in community settings, mental hospitals, treatment centers and outpatient clinics. Therapeutic recreation is frequently a treatment used for stress disorders, including bipolar, anxiety and depression.

Stress Management
Therapeutic recreational activities may be a key treatment modality in helping individuals with bipolar disorder cope with stress and anxiety while improving relaxation techniques. Patients explore and develop self-nurturing and self-soothing skills. These techniques help the patient increase his ability to relax, reduce stress and cope with anxiety.

Certified therapeutic recreation specialists engage patients in activities that improve self-esteem and offer leisure resources that they can use in their free time to increase communication skills and assertiveness. Recreational activities can help bipolar patients manage stress and nurture themselves so they need not depend on others for their happiness.

Health and Wellness
Part of the therapeutic recreation specialist's strategy for bipolar treatment seeks to engage the patient in active leisure activities that help the patient increase levels of energy. Exercise and activity help promote social engagement, teamwork, cooperation and the ability to self-regulate. Healthy exercise improves not only physical conditioning, but mental health and acuity.

Community Integration
Another facet of therapeutic recreational intervention with bipolar patients is exposing the client to the availability of community recreational resources. Treatment seeks to engage the patient in community activities as a participant, observer and supporter. Volunteer activities, hobby groups, retail recreational equipment suppliers and online recreational information resources all can help the patient improve engagement with the world around her. Finding friends and people with shared interests helps the individual with bipolar disorder build a social support structure outside of formal treatment facilities and professional aides.

Certified therapeutic recreation specialists use a variety of tools to evaluate clients, including interest inventories, personal recreational histories, aptitude and skills tests. Then the therapist works with patients prior to developing a recreation plan. The specialist is often part of a coordinated treatment plan that includes psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, social workers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, nurses and other medical personnel. The recreation portion of the comprehensive treatment plan lays out goals and objectives that address the four chief issues: stress management, self-awareness, health and wellness, and community integration.