On Getting Advanced Specialization in Recreation Therapy

Guest blog post submitted by Rebecca Halioua

In June of this year, I obtained my Specialty CTRS in Physical
Medicine/Rehabilitation. Acquiring a Specialty CTRS has been a wish of mine since
NCTRC implemented this type of certification. However, I was never really sure that I
could do it, which I’m sure is a feeling many other Recreational Therapists have, so I
never committed it to my list of career goals. Mostly, I didn’t think I could do it because I
didn’t really know enough about it, and I never took the time to reach out to NCTRC to
find out what my options were other than reading the information on their website.
I attended the Southeastern Recreational Therapy Symposium in April where
representatives from NCTRC lead a session on Specialty Certification. I got so much
out of this session that it ignited the spark in me that said “I can do this!” In the weeks
following the conference I printed all the materials from the website and determined that
Path B was the best route for me, as I had already completed my Master’s Degree in
Recreational Therapy Administration and I took specialty courses in Physical Medicine. I
still had questions about the process so I reached out to NCTRC. The staff was
amazingly helpful. I had phone calls and emails with their staff to guide me on things I
wasn’t sure about, they made the whole process very easy.

When I mailed off my application I felt confident that my paperwork was complete
and that I had the appropriate documentation needed, it was just a matter of the
committee determining if I qualified or not so I was still a little nervous. Flash forward to
the day I received that beautiful brown envelope in the mail, I was so excited because I
knew based on the size of it that there was a certificate in there. The first thing I did was
post a photo of it to Facebook of course. It gave me a sense of accomplishment that I
really needed to refuel my tank. I was excited to share the news with my coworkers the
next day, I had not told any of them that I had applied so they were all surprised and
happy for me as well. I am the only one in my workgroup with a Specialty Certification,
and I have been encouraging my peers to take continuing education courses to get
My suggestions for anyone who is even remotely interested in getting a Specialty
Certification of their own is to contact NCTRC directly by calling them and see what your
options are. Their staff is incredibly helpful and you may qualify for one without even
realizing it. They will work with you on ways to adjust your regular CTRS renewal and
your Specialty renewal so you can get them on the same renewal date even. If you
don’t qualify for it yet, set a goal for yourself and take the required CEU’s to get yourself
to the qualification standard for Path A. Danny has several courses that can get you
there, and NCTRC can help give you guidance on the types of courses you can look for
to meet the criteria as well. I didn’t do anything special to get this certification, I just
decided that it was something I wanted, so if it is something you want you can do it too.
Good luck!

NCTRC – recertification and specialty certifications


Pictured above: Susan Kaufer and Robin McNeal

I [Danny Pettry] had the great privilege of attending the Recertification and Specialty Certification Overview at the 2016 ATRA conference in Chicago with Robin McNeal, CTRS and Susan Kaufer, CTRS.

Robin and Susan work for NCTRC! I’ve had the privilege to attend several training sessions they’ve provided at ATRA conferences and other state/ local conferences of the years with both of them.

I informed both of them that I appreciate all the work they do for our certification. I also informed them that I do not envy their task/ job of reviewing all of those documents (applications) and reviewing/ audit of CEUs. Important job. Somebody has to do it. I let them know I’d rather be a practitioner in the field.

They shared the mission of NCTRC: To protect the consumer of therapeutic recreation services by promoting the provision of quality therapeutic recreation services by NCTRC certificants.

NCTRC is overseen by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

The Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) is considered the benchmark for professional services. The CTRS is known as the qualified provider of recreational therapy.

NCTRC does a lot to advocate for the credential. We, CTRS can also advocate and promote our credential. People can contact NCTRC to request brochures.


A while back, NCTRC completed a job analysis survey among certificants. It was used to identify two areas: job task/ experience and knowledge areas for the CTRS to be competent.

One option for renewing certification consists of: working at least 480 hours in the field within 5-years and having at least 50 hours of continuing education that are relevant to the therapeutic recreation knowledge areas.


Do it early! There is good news: people can submit their recertifcate application up to one-year early to get the process completed. Of course, the CTRS renewal cycle will still be at the same time. I think this is wonderful. That way – if a Continuing Education course doesn’t count towards recertification, you can earn more credits that do because you’ve submitted early/ before the deadline.


Responsibility: Your continuing education units(CEUs) is your responsibility. You must keep track of these and don’t lose them. I [Danny Pettry] keep mine in a fire proof safe along with CEUs for other professional certificates and state professional licenses.


NOTE: activity/ skills based sessions do not count for CEUs. In example – if you take a yoga class it won’t count. Of course, a person can take these courses to learn new skills, but should be aware that they won’t count for CEUs.


Ways to earn CEUs that were discussed during this session:

  • Publication – write a book or journal article and you’ll earn CEUs
  • Guest lecture for your local college or university and you’ll earn CEUS
  • Supervise an internship (up to 2 interns allowed) and they can’t be during the same time. You can get 5 hours per intern.
  • Academic course credit. One 3-hour-semester course counts for 45 out of 50 CEUs! That is a great way. Those working on their master’s degree will have an abundance of CEUs.

Another way:

  • They didn’t directly talk about online/ home study courses (http://www.DannyPettry.com) during this part of this session. Staff at NCTRC have in talked about my program (which I’ve attended, in example: ATRA 2013 Pitts, PA). However, I do think it is best that they don’t name any praticular programs. In example: if they talk about Indiana Univrsity for a master’s dgree in the field or taking a graduate course for CEU credit then other colleges and universities may want them to do the same and that really isn’t the role of NCTRC to advocate or promote any program like that.
  • My self-study online courses are currently pre-approved by NCTRC for CEUs. Go here: http://www.DannyPettry.com

Getting the 480 hours of experience in five years

  • Those working full time should easily have this.
  • Those who are not working full-time as a Rec Therapist can still earn 480 hours for various roles and responsibilities, including:
    1. Supervisor role (manager of RT)
    2. Administrator (at hospital) who is no longer working in RT
    3. Educator (who is teaching RT)
    4. Consultant (who is providing services in RT)
    5. Volunteer (which I just think is wonderful
    6. Professional services (serving as a member of the ATRA board or your state/ local chapter affiliate of ATRA)

Robin McNeal, CTRS and Susan Kaufer, CTRS (the two presenters of this training) are not working in direct service as a recreational therapist. However, they can still earn their 480 hours work from various ways.

I wanted to mention during this session that U.S. Congressman G. T. Thompson isn’t working as recreational therapist practitioner, but he still maintains his 480-hours of work in the field, which I’m very grateful for. He has done a lot with legislation related to our field.

The speakers did not directly say this, but I got a gut impression that they will move to requiring a CTRS to earn so many CEUs in each knowledge area. But I’m not 100% of that yet.


This is fairly new!

They speakers had suggested in the future that a license in the profession will be the benchmark in the field and then those professional practitioners can advance by earning specialty certifications.  They said that currently 54 people have a specialty certification!

Based on my knowledge, nurses can specialize in various areas (like behavioral health). Counselors can specialist (like substance abuse, career counseling, family marriage counseling, etc).

There are currently five specialty certifications offered by NCTRC.  These included:

  1. Behavioral health: they said over 50% of those with specialty certification have this one.
  2. Geriatrics: 2nd place
  3. Physical medicine/ rehabilitation: 3rd place
  4. Community/ inclusion: only two people have this.
  5. Developmental Disabilities: 0 people have this specialty certification.

There are two paths towards earning this.

  • One path consists of a master’s degree with (9) credit hours in the specialty area.
  • One path consists of earning (75) CEUs that are all focused in the specialty area and having at least 3 professional certificates that are greater than 6-hours.

I really hope to see more people get these.

NOTE: I, [Danny Pettry] am working on creating three professional certificate courses in behavioral health designed specifically for those people who are seeking the behavioral health specialty certification by NCTRC.  I’m working to get those same three professional certificate trainings approved by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC). They will probably be released at my site (DannyPettry.com) in 2017.


Disclaimer: Contact NCTRC with your questions and comments. Danny Pettry (author of this blog) has been a CTRS since 2003, however, he does not work for NCTRC and he is not elected to the board of directors. Go here: http://www.NCTRC.org

Online resources for Rec Therapists

Submitted by: Brenda Torres-Wells CTRS (operator of: http://www.technohealer.com)


As a CTRS Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (Recreational Therapist), I understand that in order to deliver quality programs depends on proper client needs assessments, plan and design utilizing protocols with the steps aiming for successful outcomes.

Online resources are now easily available to learn, create and develop….Effective Meaningful Activities.

Working in this field for over 25 years has allowed me to value the importance of program  development while thinking outside the box utilizing as much informational resources including many of my professional colleagues and friend’s online resources and literature.

Making moments count for our clients should be important and motivate us in finding opportunities in delivering meaningful experiences for our client’s life journey. Be open to explore ALL that the Web has to offer in creating priceless moments for those that we serve. B.T.W.

A few online TR resource subject suggestions:

  • Therapeutic Recreation Leisure Programming
  • CEU/Education/Internship/Conference Opportunities
  • Case Studies and New Trends
  • Community resources accessible for the disabled
  • New laws and regulations
  • Employment/ Job Postings
  • Network opportunities
  • Equipment; décor, adapted devices, and materials supplies
  • Books(  hard copy & auditory), downloadable ( music & literature materials)