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February is National Recreational Therapy Month

February is National Recreational Therapy month and Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health wants to help generate awareness about the positive impact therapeutic recreational programs and services can have on health and wellbeing.  

“Everyone needs some form of leisure to help maintain, and improve, overall health and wellbeing,” said Melissa Jacoby, a recreation therapist with Devereux Pennsylvania’s Children’s Behavioral Health Services center. “At Devereux, Recreational Therapy is extremely important for the individuals we serve, plus it offers a fun, different and exciting way for people to work on their goals through therapy, without even realizing it is therapy.” 

What is Recreational Therapy?

International Recreational Therapy month is sponsored by the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA), which represents the interests of therapeutic recreation specialists, also known as recreation therapists. 

ATRA says recreational therapy, also known as therapeutic recreation, is a process that uses recreation and other activity-based interventions to address the needs of individuals with illnesses and/or disabling conditions, as a means to psychological and physical health, recovery and wellbeing.  

Critical programming at Devereux

At Devereux, we operate a national network of clinical, therapeutic, educational and employment programs that positively impact the lives of tens of thousands of children, adults – and their families – every year. Specifically, in the area of recreational therapy, these activities can include: aquatics, music and dance classes, arts and crafts, games, and sports. 

“Through engagement in recreational pursuits, our youth can unlock essential facets of themselves toward more complete wellness,” said Devereux Pennsylvania’s Children’s Behavioral Health Services Executive Director Dr. Rhea Fernandes. “They tap into their self-efficacy, increase their awareness of others, develop a sense of responsibility and community, self-directedness and optimism. Only experience can shape this, and many of our youth have been denied these positive experiences we tend to take for granted. Ultimately meaningful activities have the power to shape positive beliefs, teach moderation and balance which are essential lifelong wellness skills.” 

‘One of my biggest career achievements’

As part of her role, Jacoby works with youth in both group and one-one-one settings, tailoring her approach to each individual’s strengths and goals. She also enjoys leading sessions that involve group social development and team-building skills.  

“Getting our individuals to work together and have fun is something I like to focus on. I also assist with life skills lessons, including how to write checks, filling out job applications and handling money. Maintaining a positive, active and healthy lifestyle – while being as independent as possible – is what Recreational Therapy is all about,” she said. “Becoming a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist is one of my biggest career achievements. The adolescents I work with push me to be a better therapist and motivate me to give them the best while they are in our programs.” 

Wellness: Key to whole-person health

At Devereux, the guiding principles of our Advanced Philosophy of Care provide for a more holistic approach to behavioral health, focusing on whole-person health.  

“Whole-person health embodies a holistic approach to wellness that respects our complexity and acknowledges that we are multidimensional beings,” added Fernandes. “Only through the development of each dimension of wellness – which includes recreation – can we lead truly health lives and reach our full potential. This has significant implications for quality of life and the potential to be as healthy as possible in the areas of emotional, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual and vocational health.” 

To learn more about Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health’s programs and services, click here.


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