A college student sent me interview questions.
I thought I’d share my answers at my blog for other college students.
- Why did you decide to work in this field?
Teaching is what I wanted to do from a young age. I came from a family of teachers. My father and his father were both school principals. Everyone in the family said “don’t go into teaching. The salary is too low to support a family.” My parents wanted me to do something in the medical field, like nursing. My hometown college required 40 hours of volunteer work in order to be accepted into any degree program. I did 40 hours of volunteer work at HealthSouth rehabilitation hospital. I discovered recreational therapy during this week. I knew then I had to become a recreational therapist.
- Did you have another career before you went to school to become a recreational therapist? What was it like to change from one career to another?
I started out with no major in college. I assumed I’d major in nursing.
- Where did you go to school for this job?
I graduated from Marshall University (Huntington, West Virginia) in 2002 with a degree in Park Resources and Leisure services with an emphasis in Therapeutic Recreation. Maybe you’ve heard of the movie: We are Marshall. I earned my master’s degree in Recreational Therapy from Indiana University (while working full-time) through their distance education program.
- What was the hardest part of school for you?
I’ll disclose that I’ve had difficulties with learning. I had to take additional classes in elementary school up to high school. My ACT scores were low. College required me to take basic classes (098, 099, and 100) in Math and English that didn’t count towards my degree. My hardest part was anxiety that I would not be able to pass the NCTRC exam. I passed it on my first try.
- What is a typical workday like?
There isn’t a typical day.
Schedules range (8 a.m. to 4:30 shift) (9 – 5:30 shift) (11 to 7 p.m. shift).
During the summer – we take our kids on a special trip (in example: The Columbus (Ohio) zoo and sometimes we don’t get back until a little after midnight.
Evenings and weekends are often required for recreational therapists at our facility.
I work Sunday through Thursday (which is my favorite).
Duties consist of: completing assessments on patient when they are admitted. Writing goals and objectives for the treatment plan, providing a lot of services (mostly group therapy interventions), sometimes one-on-one interventions). Attending and participating in treatment team meetings, writing evaluations and discharge summaries. Leading group sessions is my favorite part of the job.
Please note: I work with children with abuse-reactive needs. There are often episodes of physical aggression.
Types of group sessions: social skills/ interpersonal skills training, emotional regulation training, mindfulness skills training, relaxation skills training, leisure education and counseling, physical fitness activities, teambuilding, self-esteem building, psyho-education groups, life skills training. And provide opportunities for recreation in general to maintain and improve quality of life.
- Do you have a lot of overtime? (If yes, How is overtime scheduled?
Sometimes I have overtime. In the past, I was hourly and I eared more for working overtime. Of course, our facility was real strict on preventing overtime unless it was absolutely necessary. My new position is salary. I’m expected to work 40 hours a week. However, there have been a few weeks where I just couldn’t complete everything in 40 hours and I’ve worked a few additional hours. Overtime might happen if: a co-worker is not able to make it to work and duties need covered or if there is a special event for the children.
- Do you have enough notification so you can adjust your schedule at home, etc.?)
I’m fortunate that for the most part my schedule stays the same: Sun to Thursday. I have two late days (11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.) on Monday and Wednesday.
- Do you work under a lot of pressure in this job? (If yes) Can you give me an example of a typical high- pressure situation?
Aggressive children are difficult. Of course, I come from the mindset that their behaviors are learned (from abuse). Some of their behaviors are reactive like a soldier coming back from war with PTSD. Aggression includes: throwing toys at us, destroying property, hitting, and biting. It is best to be able to remain calm and collected during these times (and not yell at the kids) and to be mindful of own behaviors, and validate the kid’s emotions are real.
- Is there a lot of take-home work in this job?
I do my best to leave work at work at the end of the day. Of course, we are all human and our thoughts can drift to work from time to time. A lot of work with patients is confidential. There are many things that can’t be shared with anyone (including family).
- (If yes, Do you ever find it hard to turn-off work at home and enjoy a personal/family life?)
I’ve learned to practice mindfulness and be in the moment.
- What kinds of professional development opportunities are there in this field?
The American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) is the leading organization for recreational therapists. They offer professional conferences for recreational therapists and online trainings. Recreational therapists can earn credit for reaching their newsletter too.
Recreational therapists are fortunate that they can attend other professional conferences and get credit (pending the training session meets the Therapeutic Recreation Knowledge area set by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification.
Many employment agencies provide training for staff that is more in aligned with their patient specific needs.
Recreational therapists can earn professional development (continuing education units) online too. I happen to provide online self-study CEUs for the Recreational Therapist. See my web-site here: http://www.dannypettry.com
- Can a person move up in this career?
I’ve know many recreational therapists who have moved into hospital management positions.
Some recreational therapists become supervisors for recreational therapy departments.
I personally don’t want to be a supervisor. I’m content being a therapist.
Recreational therapists can earn advanced certification in five specialty areas, including: physical rehab, geriatrics, community, developmental disabilities, and behavioral health. Contact the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) for additional information.
- Do you see this field as growing and expanding?
I see it growing the most in geriatrics. There are many people in the baby-boomer generation who are growing old. There will be a lot of need for providing services for this large group of people.
Healthcare is expensive in the United States. There is a growing need for evidenced-based practices (EBP). An EBP is grounded in research that shows the treatment intervention has been proven to bring about specific outcomes. Recreational therapists must provide EBP. Insurance companies want to make sure they are paying for a service that is bring about outcomes for an individual.
- Can you give me examples of why you think this is happening?
The baby boomer generation are now seniors.
Healthcare is expensive and needs evidence that treatment works
- Is this a secure field? Can you give me reasons why you think this is true
This depends on your definition of secure. I imagine you’re asking if there will be secure job opportunities. I personally see a lot of career posts. Some of these jobs may require a person to relocate to a different area.
Opportunities will probably be better for a person who earns the national credential: the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) credential. Four states require a license to practice.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the U.S. Dept. of Labor can provide you with some useful information. Here is the link:
- Does this job give you the challenges you need to stay interested in this field?
Keeping people “interested” is something recreational therapists study in school.
Read about “Flow Theory” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
I personally stay interested in the field. There is so much more to learn.
- Do you see yourself doing this job for the rest of your work life? Why (or why not)
I see myself staying in my current position for many more years.
I enjoy what I’m doing. I feel lucky that I get to do what I do.
- I am a person who needs a lot of assurance on a job. Does this career field provide that for a person like me?
I assume you’re asking if there is assurance that there will be open positions when you graduate. I personally believe that is a very good thing for a student in college to look for before starting a degree program. There was a recent article that Recreational Therapists are the number one job that won’t’ be replaced by computers.
Please feel free to email me if you have any additional questions.