Is There a Role For Recreational Therapists in Obesity Management?

At a recent talk, I happened to meet a recreational therapist, who expressed an interest in perhaps getting involved in obesity management. I must admit that I had not seriously considered the potential contribution that recreational therapists may bring to the field of bariatric care.

For readers, who are not be familiar with this profession, it may be important to point out that the field of therapeutic recreation recognizes leisure, recreation and play as an integral component of quality of life. Recreational therapists specialize in helping individuals, who have physical, mental, social, or emotional limitations which impact their ability to engage in meaningful leisure experiences.

This is something that would certainly be of relevance to many patients that I see in our bariatric program – many express loss of interest and ability to engage in leisure activity due to the very real barriers posed by their excess weight.

It turns out that recreational therapists are the professional experts in helping clients to rediscover and maximise independence in leisure, optimal health and quality of life.

Recreational therapy has been shown to reduce depression, stress, anxiety, as well as recover or maintain motor functioning, reasoning abilities and build confidence that allows clients to enjoy greater independence and quality of life.

Although, many readers may think that this is a new profession, recreational therapists have been around for a while. For e.g. the Alberta Therapeutic Recreation Association was founded in 1985, i.e. over 25 years ago and has over 400 members.

Established benefits of therapeutic recreation include maintenance of physical and pscyhosocial health, cognitive functioning, personal and life satisfaction, and prevention of complications of physical disabilities and improved self-care and adherence to treatment plans.

These services would most certainly be relevant to many of the severely obese patients that we see in our clinic, who have experienced social isolation due to their excess weight and have certainly lost much of their social network and interactions.

I am not aware of ‘bariatric’ recreational therapists, who have specialized in managing clients with severe obesity or ‘recovering’ from severe obesity following bariatric surgery.

If my reader have, I’d certainly be most interested in hearing about their experiences with recreation therapists and whether or not they found these services helpful.

I most certainly would love to hear from recreational therapists working in this field or who happen to have ideas on what they would bring to obesity management.

Edmonton, Alberta