Therapeutic Recreation – Open, Integrated & Expanded

Recreational Therapy at Sheltering Arms InstituteTherapeutic Recreation has an abundance of options to educate, engage, and help patients recover while having fun. Sheltering Arms Institute boasts seven full-time recreation therapists who create new and innovative ways to challenge patients. Thanks to a range of activities each day, patients have more opportunities to sharpen mental skills, facilitate coordination, and share a laugh. There are numerous programs including Lawn Games, Textured Tin Foil Art, Giant Jenga, and the Price is Right, just to name a few. This fresh approach has created an environment of unparalleled positivity.

Brianna “Brie” Kilmartin, Therapy Program Manager says, “When they were building this new facility, one of the goals for the therapeutic recreation program was to help the team have patients up and out of bed as much as possible.” As a result of this careful planning, the Institute has an energized team of recreation therapists to motivate patients; this new and exciting program presents a sharp contrast to the single recreation therapist who shared time between the former Hanover and South hospitals. A bigger staff advances this focused approach to achieve stronger results, as well as extend activities for patients to nights and weekends.

One of the most rewarding parts of Brie’s job has been to work in such a cohesive environment. “We have a huge recreation therapy center and I love being able to see all the patients through the bright, beautiful windows. In the past, I always felt that we worked behind closed doors. Now, I enjoy being able to see people experiencing the adaptive equipment and integrating all services we provide. It is amazing!” observes Brie, who came to the Institute from the Brain Injury Unit at VCU Health.

Brie highlights the accomplishments of her enthusiastic team who work hard to keep patients moving forward in their recovery. “This week, Chelsea Fields created a Putt-Putt course in the gym. I love watching people laugh and enjoy life again.”

Chelsea, a rec therapist, is committed to inventing a variety of activities and making them purposeful and entertaining. Putt-Putt, for example, allows patients to have fun while also working on balance and extending the amount of time they stand on their own. “I try to make things myself even if it is out of a cardboard box to meet a patient’s needs and I often brainstorm ideas online to see how I can help.” She coordinates a patient’s rehab with a potential game offering, which allows for more productive activity in a fun way. By designing a mini-golf course, Chelsea created a situation that patients would likely enjoy as a leisure activity once they return home.

One of the reasons games are so helpful, Chelsea notes, is that everyone can genuinely enjoy themselves without worrying about their performance. Challenges are an integral part of a patient’s physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Chelsea taught a group of patients how to do Origami, the Japanese art of folding paper into animals and shapes. Any questionable shapes created a ripe opportunity for the jokes to flow. For Chelsea, it was all about being present in that moment. “I like it when a patient is having a good time while progressing in their health.” The games allow everyone to relax and have a good time, but there is a purpose. Recreation therapy helps individuals suffering from injury and illness develop new strategies to learn to live with their disability, enhancing their quality of life. It works by reducing the isolation patients experience and helping them learn new ways to participate in leisure activities.

The recreation therapy team’s passion for helping patients is contagious and the positive energy is flowing at the Institute. So, the next time you visit the new hospital, you may just stumble upon an anniversary celebration, balloon tennis, or a push-up contest. There are no limits to having fun on the road to recovery.

What is Recreation Therapy?

Recreation therapy enhances physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and leisure development allowing individuals to participate fully and independently in life.

  • Therapy plans are highly individualized to the patient, taking into account past, present, and future interests and lifestyles.
  • It differs from other therapeutic interventions by incorporating recreation activities into intervention strategies such as:
    • playing Jenga to enhance concentration,
    • UNO to help with cognitive retraining,
    • or allowing the patient to become engaged in a social aspect of therapy to be used as a diversion to assist with pain management so the patient is not reliant on pain medication.
  • Incorporating healthy living into treatment to improve functioning, but also enhancing independence and successful involvement in all aspects of life.