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Recreational Therapy: Benefits, Types & More

Last Updated: November 20, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Pursuing creative or artistic activities, spending time with animals, and outdoor exploration are examples of recreational therapy. 

When you think about going to a drug or alcohol rehab, you might think about a sterile environment and days filled with intense therapy. Yes, addiction treatment is built on a foundation of evidence-based therapy. However, the goal is to help bring you back to a sense of physical and mental well-being. This can include learning new hobbies and finding things you enjoy. Recreational therapy is often a big part of that.

What Is Recreational Therapy?

Recreational therapy is, according to the American Therapeutic Recreation Association, a process of using activities as an intervention to help with mental health conditions. Recreational therapy aims to help with psychological recovery and developing physical well-being.

Types of Recreational Therapy

Some of the variations of recreational therapy often included in addiction treatment programs include:

  • Adventure therapy is a hands-on psychotherapy approach that might include group games, ropes courses, wilderness activities, and other outdoor activities.
  • Art therapy helps you explore and express emotions you might have initially connected with during talk therapy. Art therapy combined with talk therapy can help people identify the effects of addiction and substance use and begin to find ways to change problematic behaviors.
  • Canine therapy includes playing with and taking care of dogs. Canine therapy can boost self-esteem and self-confidence, help improve your mood, lower anxiety, and help you build skills for social interaction.
  • Llama therapy encourages laughter and a sense of joy. It’s a version of animal therapy that can be helpful for people in recovery. Llama therapy is integrated into addiction treatment programs to help with symptoms of withdrawal, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and chronic pain. Emerging data highlights animal therapy's benefits, including llama therapy.
  • Massage therapy is a bodywork approach that can reduce tension and stress and help the body produce more serotonin and dopamine naturally. Massage therapy is also helpful to promote the release of toxins related to substance use.
  • Music therapy can help with managing physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. The benefits of music therapy include the promotion of self-awareness, reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, and self-expression. Music therapy can also help patients who went through trauma communicate more effectively.
  • Yoga can boost serotonin, provide an outlet for stress, reduce anxiety, and help develop healthy coping strategies.

There are many forms of recreational therapy, all of which can help with personal discoveries and igniting passions and interests. With recreational therapy, you can continue it well after you complete your treatment program and throughout your recovery.

Benefits of Recreational Therapy

The primary objectives of recreational therapy are to improve problem-solving, stress management, and social interaction skills. A recreational therapy approach can help participants identify new hobbies and interests. There’s an emphasis on building a healthy, addiction-free lifestyle so that you can return to your daily life without relying on substances. Recreational therapy is also something that can be closely individualized to the needs of each person.

Going through addiction treatment and the early stages of the recovery process can be exhausting mentally and physically. Recreational therapy is a welcome break for many.

Other recreational therapy benefits include:

  • Better social function
  • Improvements in self-esteem
  • Reductions in loneliness
  • Better stress management
  • Higher focus level 
  • More feelings of control
  • Increased involvement in the community

Recreational Therapy in Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

Addiction and mental health treatment often revolve around the provision of recreational outlets. You may have spent a lot of your free time getting and using substances before treatment. When you’re in recovery, one of the biggest things you can learn is how to spend your time effectively while you’re taking care of your needs and having fun.

In individual and group therapy, you learn as part of addiction treatment to manage stress effectively without the use of substances. Recreational therapy helps you learn how to relieve anxiety and stress, and it’s an introduction to things you may enjoy after you complete rehab.

How The Recovery Village Kansas City Uses Recreational Therapy

The Recovery Village Kansas City uses a continuum of care approach that often includes various recreational therapies. These therapies include music and art therapy, yoga, and canine therapy.

If you’re struggling with addiction or someone you love is, reach out to The Recovery Village Kansas City. We offer individualized programs, and a Recovery Advocate can help identify the best treatment program for your needs or the needs of your loved one.


National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. “What is Recreational Therapy?” Accessed November 15, 2023.

American Therapeutic Recreational Association. “What is Recreational Therapy?” Accessed November 15, 2023.