Recreational Therapy: The Difference Between Living and Existing

The recreational therapy mission statement of Grand Junction, Colorado’s Veterans Affairs hospital is as follows.
"Recreation Therapy is the provision of treatment services and the provision of recreation services to persons with illnesses or disabling conditions. Primary purposes of treatment services are to restore, remediate, or rehabilitate in order to improve functioning and independence as well as reduce or eliminate the effects of illness or disability
"Mission: Facilitate leisure and recreation modalities for veterans with physical, mental, emotional, or social limitations in order to promote their health and well-being. RT staff will provide leisure education and develop recreation modalities to promote a better quality of life, independence, and assist in ease of community reentry for the veterans we serve.”
Each VA has its own guidelines, qualifications, prerequisites, and availability of activities; this is based on my local Colorado VA standards.
You may be thinking, “This sounds good? What do I do next?” and, “When will RT be indicated in medical management and how do I enroll?”
A consult is required to help identify contraindications of the veteran for treatment that would be of benefit through rec therapy.
Examples include psychiatric diagnosis, paraplegic, quadriplegic, social phobia, cerebrovascular accident, weight management, loss of limbs, substance abuse, anxiety, and the need to develop new skills and adaptive techniques.
For the safety of the participant and others in the program a doctor, physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant must sign and schedule a consult for recreational therapy with the diagnosis and reason for the consult.
The recreational therapist will then consult with the veteran and make an assessment. The goals are then documented and the veteran is scheduled for an activity to help meet or exceed their goals.
For me, the greatest part of RT is meeting fellow veterans who share a common interest.
Here are some RT activities provided:
  • Hunting
  • Creative arts festival
  • Winter sports clinic
  • Golden-age games
  • Fly fishing
  • Fly tying
  • Kayaking
  • Skiing
  • Recumbent cycling
  • Photography
  • Aquatic aerobics
  • Yoga
  • Disc golf
  • Rock climbing
  • Geocaching
  • Some 1:1 programs to assist with your recreational pursuits/passion.
These requirements and activities are exclusive to the Grand Junction VA Medical Center in Colorado. Activities and requirements will vary from VA to VA. All activities provided are available regardless of limitations. These sports/activities are modified with adaptive sporting aids and support by the rec therapist to fit all disabilities.
Get out, get some fitness, and make some new friends.
I hope what you once thought impossible due to a disability is now doable with the right therapist and adaptive equipment.
Make your disability a different ability.

Shaun Kuhaneck is a disabled veteran who served in the United States Coast Guard. He volunteers with the Grand Junction, Colorado U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a board member.