Recreational Therapy David Chang Florida International University Recreational









Recreational Therapy

David Chang

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Recreational Therapy (RT)

There are five possible modalities for addressing
anxiety. They include anger management, animal-assisted therapy, art and
crafts, aquatics, and sensory stimulation.

Anger management – involves
the process of an individual learning to identify symptoms that they are
becoming angry, and taking an action(s) to calm down and deal with the
presenting issue in a different fashion. According to Robertson & Long (2008), an
individual learns, rehearses, and applies effective thinking strategies in
social situations.

Arts and crafts – is a
creative expressive therapeutic intervention in which paintings, drawings,
sculptures, photography, and digital arts, are used in the therapeutic process.

This allows the patient to express himself/herself, develop leisure skills, and
experience personal achievement (Robertson & Long, 2008).

Aquatics – is a physical
activity therapy in which patients perform exercises in water to relax and
become fit, among other therapeutic advantages. An aquatic therapist uses this
approach to assist the patient to achieve his or her therapeutic goals (Robertson
& Long, 2008).

Sensory stimulation – This
modality involves the use of pleasurable activities such as home videos to
stimulate the mind (Robertson & Long, 2008). Even so, the best
modality for the disabling condition is animal-assisted

Animal-assisted therapy is a
nature-based intervention that involves the use of animals to achieve the goals
of positive social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning of the patient (Robertson
& Long, 2008). It emerged from the belief that animals have
supernatural powers and spirits. The earliest form of AAT was used in the 18th
century by William Tuke in England (Serpell, 2000). Since then, animals, such
as horses, birds, dolphins, cats, and more so, dogs, are used during this form
of intervention to educate and motivate the patient. Sigmund Freud, for
instance, kept dogs for his psychoanalysis (Coren, 2010). Florence Nightingale
also appreciated the use of pets for healing. Significant studies show that
this form of therapy is effective for patients suffering from chronic anxiety
disorders (Giuliania & Jacquemettaza, 2017; Leslie
et al., 2014; Baker & Dawson, 1998)

Process for animal-assisted therapy


For animal-assisted therapy, there are particular behaviors, attitudes,
and skills that the patient must have to maximize the benefits of this therapy.

For instance, the patient must have a liking of animals, say a dog, and be able
to stand and walk with the animal. This establishes the foundation for
planning, implementation, and assessment of the therapeutic intervention.


During planning, the therapist and the client outline the goals,
objectives, content, and processes for implementation and evaluation. The goal
of therapy may include but not limited to relieving stress and personal care (Robertson
& Long, 2008).


In the implementation stage, a therapeutic relationship is established,
and the therapist creates a safe environment to facilitate and supervise AAT in
light of achieving the objectives.


Finally, the data of client’s progress is collected and assessed for
subsequent decision-making. This may include changing the program or
intensifying it.

Specific Activities

Talking to the animal – allows
the patient to express his or her emotions and fears to address her worries,
grief, and isolation.

Park Walk – allows the patient
to stroll with a confidant in places they dread to ease his or her anxiety.

Doggie soccer game – allows
the patient to engage in a game like doggie soccer to increase his or her focus
and attention, and experience a greater sense of control and teamwork.

Pet feeding – allows the
patient to feed the animal to increase the sense of self-sacrifice, trust, and
reduce isolation.

Pet sitting – allows the
patient to take care of the animal, increasing his or her sense of
responsibility, enhanced problem-solving, and teamwork.

Description and Activity Analysis Form & Summary

Doggie Soccer

Doggie soccer game can be one of the most effective ways
of reducing anxiety. The therapist use a typical Golden Retriever to engage the
patient in doggie soccer games. This breed of dogs is known to be patient,
loves work, and is keen on tasks (Coren, 2000). They are sociable, calm, and
willing to learn. The purpose of doggie soccer is to increase the patient’s
aerobic capacity, improve cardiovascular health, build strength and
flexibility, promote coordination and teamwork, enhance thinking, enhance
concentration, and promote self-discipline. The goal of the game is to score a
goal (Bindoff, 2011). The game entails teaching the dog to toss the ball around
using its paws. In fact, the dog can be taught to score a goal by pushing a
ball towards the goal line using its snout. While the game is played on the
playing ground, it can be done indoor but the patient controls the ball. There
might not be goal posts indoor; buckets can be set up to serve the purpose of a
goal post. Apparently, dogs like biting and may end up biting the ball. The dog
should be encouraged to bate and nose the ball, and be allowed to achieve the
desired behavior (scoring a goal) (Bindoff, 2011). To train the dog to score,
the patient kicks the ball using his nasal bone, three paces away from the post
into the goal post. Nose touches, timing, and success are imperatives when
playing doggie soccer. Even so, a goal post should not be the main thing in the
game. The patient can also teach the dog other tricks such as serving the ball,
shooting, and fetching the ball. However, it is imperative that the therapist
supervises the activity to ensure both the patient and the dog are safe during


Physical aspects

Doggie soccer requires significant use of the body, body
parts, movements, coordination, speed, energy and flexibility.

Social aspects

Playing doggie soccer requires significant social
capabilities such as contact with the dog, developing a cooperative relation,
and both verbal and non-verbal communication.

Cognitive aspects

Cognitively, doggie soccer does not require intense
memory and thought processes.

Affective aspects

The game provides the patient the opportunity to express
different emotions, such as frustration and joy.

Administrative aspects

There are no significant administrative aspects required
from the patient. Even so, the patient coordinates with the therapist to have
access to a ball, a playing area, and a time schedule.

Adaptation and Evaluation


Physical aspect

            Doggie soccer game with
a dog requires the use of motor skills, both fine and gross. During the play, a
patient suffering from anxiety has an opportunity to walk and run. When teaching
the dog to play, patients require a spacious environment to engage in hopping,
catching, jumping, throwing, bouncing, kicking, and striking, subsequently
developing their motor skills. During constant worry, the patient is prone to
developing suppressed immune system, reduced sexual performance, muscle
tension, premature coronary diseases, and heart attack. However, a research by
Cherniack and Cherniack (2014), revealed that AAT improved older people’s
physical health in all aspects, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular
diseases due to increased cardiovascular activities involved in playing with

Cognitive aspect

People with anxiety disorders are often in constant
worry traumatic memories. Interestingly, animals require attention, and playing
Doggie soccer game with them will require even much attention, as much as you
learn. As such, a patient suffering from anxiety will be forced to forget about
himself or herself for quite some time to spend time with and train the animal
using the ball. In fact, it will require his or her ability to recall the
appropriate skills to play with the got, thereby boosting his or her dog
playing memory and learning (Giuliania & Jacquemettaza, 2017). Ultimately,
he or she becomes focused on the animal companion and spends less time worrying
about his or her fears, gradually reducing the anxiety levels (Baker &
Dawson, 1998).

Social aspect

            People suffering from
anxiety disorder often worry about others judging their behavior. Even so,
animals are not judging; therapy animals are loving and accepting, as they
recompense their human caretakers with unconditional love (Leslie et al.,
2014). The Golden Retriever breed, for instance, is sociable, calm, and willing
to learn. Despite their significant demand for attention and care, dogs and
animals used in AAT can significantly provide an environment for a patient to
take great comfort knowing that the therapy pet is a reliable, non-judgmental

Emotional aspect

            People suffering from
anxiety may experience mood disorders following their inability to handle their
worries and fears (Davidson, 2000). Moreover, low moods can be experienced as a
result of anxiety diagnoses and lack of strong social support. These may be
followed up by anger outbusts. Statistics, however, shows that AAT has positive
impact on mood and feelings of joy and happiness, and an increased sense of
motivation (Leslie et al., 2014). In another research conducted by Giuliania
and Jacquemettaza (2017), the authors revealed that patients who were anxious
because of their learning disabilities not only improved their learning and
reduced their anxiety but also increased in happiness as a result of their


Physical aspect

The patient should be able to improve his or her eating behavior,
increase his or her body weight, be active during the day, and have a good
peaceful sleep during the night.

Cognitive aspect

The patient should be able to worry less about his or
her fears, record and share good memories, and learn new adaptive skills.

Social aspect

The patient should be able to have more friends,
establish a strong relationship with family members as well as the pet, and
engage in more outdoor activities.

Emotional aspect

The patient should have an elevated mood, demonstrate
joy, confidence and happiness, and reduce his or her fears significantly. For
instance, she should be confident when exposed to prior traumatic situation
without losing her sense of joy.

Disabling Condition and Activity Adaptation


Social impairment is a unique category of disabling
conditions, which involves dissociation from and lack of individual involvement
in relations with other people. While it occurs with other mental and
developmental problems, such as schizophrenia, autism, and severe anxiety
disorders, it can be triggered by substance-related behaviors, criminal
behavior, and at-risk youth among other disabling conditions. In this section,
the second disabling condition that can be managed by AAT is substance related

As established in the DSM-5, “substance-related
disorders encompass 10 separate classes of drugs: alcohol; caffeine;
cannabis; hallucinogens (with separate categories for phencyclidine or
similarly acting arylcyclohexylamines and other hallucinogens); inhalants;
opioids; sedatives, hypnotics, and anxiolytics; stimulants (amphetamine-type
substances, cocaine, and other stimulants); tobacco; and other (or unknown)
substances” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 481). These are
disorders of intoxication, dependence, and abuse, as well as substance
withdrawal as a result of the aforementioned substances, some of which are
legal while others are illegal.

and Evaluation

Physical aspect

Statistics show that being idle is a major reason why
people engage in substance use and abuse (Mills, 2013). Playing Doggie soccer
game can be a means of engaging a drug patient in a body exhausting activity.

In a controlled environment, using a dog and a ball, a therapist who ensures
successful therapy outcomes guides the patient. As a result of this therapy,
the patient should be able to be active, improve his or her appetite and
eating, and have better sleep, leading to a healthy life.

Cognitive aspect

People suffering from substance-related disorders such
as dependence and intoxication are unable to control their thoughts about the
specific drug of abuse, and have impaired judgment (American Psychological
Association, 2013). One way to control their thoughts is by engaging in AAT
activities such as playing doggie soccer to divert their attention. They
require a therapist who actively encourage them to divert their energies
towards the game and develop personal ability to resist the temptation of
taking a drug (Libal, 2014). As a result of this therapy, the patient should be
able to not only resist the temptation of taking the drug, but also make
rational judgments.

Social aspect

Apparently, most substance-related disorder patients
such as alcohol abusers experience severe withdrawal symptoms due to
elimination of the substance (American Psychological Association, 2013). These
symptoms can be so severe that the patient dissociates with other people. Even
so, Doggie soccer game can be a means of enhancing relationship with the dog
and family members. During the Doggie soccer game, a family member(s) should
take part in bonding with the patient and the dog. Following this therapy, the
patient should be able to associated with family members and learn how to
become attached with them.

Emotional aspect

Patients who are intoxicated may suffer from mood
lability (American Psychological Association, 2013). Engaging in Doggie soccer
game can enable the patient increase his or her sense of joy. According to
Libal (2013), drug abusers who engage in playful activities such as soccer
enhances the feeling of positivity, courage, and more so, empathy. As a result
of this therapeutic intervention, the patient should be able to be more
positive about the therapy and life in general, feel encouraged to take part in
therapy and other personal activities, and be empathic about his close
relations who participate in his therapy.




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