17 Therapeutic Recreation Specialist Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from a therapeutic recreation specialist, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

If you have a passion for helping people and want to work in the healthcare field, a job as a therapeutic recreation specialist (or therapeutic recreation therapist) may be a good fit for you. Therapeutic recreation specialists work with patients who have physical, mental, social, and emotional disabilities. They use recreation and other activities to help these patients improve their cognitive and physical functioning, as well as their overall well-being.

Before you can start working with patients, you’ll need to go through a job interview. During the interview, the interviewer will ask you a variety of questions to assess your skills and experience. They will also want to know if you have the personality and temperament to work with patients who have disabilities.

To help you prepare for your interview, we’ve compiled a list of sample therapeutic recreation specialist interview questions and answers.

Are you certified or licensed in any way to practice therapeutic recreation?

Employers may ask this question to make sure you have the proper qualifications for the job. If you are not certified or licensed, they might also want to know if you plan on getting these credentials in the future. You can answer honestly about your certification and licensing status. If you do not have any certifications or licenses, explain what steps you would take to get them.

Example: “I am not currently certified or licensed in therapeutic recreation. However, I am planning on taking a course through my local community college that will allow me to become certified as a therapeutic recreation specialist. Once I complete this course, I will apply for certification with the American Therapeutic Recreation Association.”

What are some of the most important skills for a therapeutic recreation specialist to have?

This question can help the interviewer determine if you have the skills necessary to succeed in this role. Use your answer to highlight some of the most important skills for a therapeutic recreation specialist and explain why they are so important.

Example: “The most important skill for a therapeutic recreation specialist is communication. This role requires me to work with many different people, including patients, their families, other medical professionals and my colleagues. I need to be able to clearly communicate information about our programs and services to everyone involved. Another important skill is creativity. I often lead group activities that require me to think creatively about how to engage participants and make them fun and engaging.”

How would you help a patient who is resistant to participating in recreational activities?

This question can help the interviewer assess your ability to work with challenging patients and develop strategies for encouraging them to participate in recreational activities. Use examples from past experience where you helped a patient overcome challenges or reluctance to engage in therapeutic recreation programs.

Example: “I once worked with a patient who was very resistant to participating in any recreational activities, even though he had been doing so regularly before his injury. I spoke with him about how important it is to maintain an active lifestyle after recovering from an injury, and he agreed to try some of our more low-impact activities like coloring and board games. After a few weeks, he started to enjoy these activities again and began to feel more comfortable moving around. He eventually returned to regular physical activity.”

What is your process for assessing a new patient?

Therapeutic recreation specialists often work with patients who have a variety of needs. Interviewers want to know how you approach each new patient and what your process is for assessing their abilities, interests and goals. Use examples from past experiences to describe the steps you take when meeting a new patient.

Example: “When I meet a new patient, I first assess their current abilities and limitations. I ask them about their hobbies and interests so that I can find ways to incorporate these into their therapy sessions. For example, if they enjoy playing basketball, I might include some exercises or games that involve shooting baskets. I also like to get to know my patients as people, so I try to learn more about their personal lives and backgrounds.”

Provide an example of a patient who benefitted from your services.

This question can help the interviewer understand how you apply your skills to benefit patients. You can use this opportunity to highlight a specific patient who benefitted from your therapeutic recreation services and discuss what made them unique or memorable.

Example: “I had a patient once who was in his late teens, but he acted like a toddler. He would throw tantrums when we tried to get him to do anything that wasn’t fun for him. I worked with him on developing patience by playing games where he had to wait for certain things to happen before he could move forward. Eventually, he learned to control his emotions and waited patiently for rewards.”

If a patient’s condition changes, how do you adjust your approach?

This question can help the interviewer understand how you adapt to changing situations and challenges. Use your answer to highlight your ability to think critically, communicate effectively and solve problems.

Example: “If a patient’s condition changes, I first assess what caused it and whether there are any other symptoms that may require my attention. If the change is minor, I will continue with the same approach. However, if the change is significant, I will adjust my treatment plan accordingly. For example, if a patient has been making good progress in their physical therapy but suddenly experiences pain or discomfort, I would evaluate the situation and determine whether they need more rest or additional exercises.”

What would you do if a patient was not getting along with a staff member?

This question can help interviewers understand how you handle conflict and resolve issues. Use examples from your experience to explain what steps you would take to solve the problem, whether it’s by talking with both parties or reporting the issue to a supervisor.

Example: “If I noticed that a patient was having trouble getting along with a staff member, I would first try to talk with them about their concerns. If they were still unhappy after our conversation, I would report the issue to my supervisor so we could address the situation together. In this case, I would also speak with the staff member who was causing the conflict to make sure they understood why the patient was upset.”

How well do you handle stress while working with patients?

Therapeutic recreation specialists often work with patients who have a variety of needs. Employers ask this question to make sure you can handle the stress that comes with working in this field. When answering, try to show how you manage stress effectively and remain calm when working with challenging patients.

Example: “I find that I am able to handle stress quite well while working as a therapeutic recreation specialist. In my previous role, I worked with many different types of patients. Some were more challenging than others, but I always remained calm and focused on helping them achieve their goals. I think it’s important for me to be patient with all patients, no matter what their situation is.”

Do you have any questions for us about the position?

Interviewers often ask this question to see if you have done any research on the company and position. They want to know that you are genuinely interested in their organization and what it has to offer. Before your interview, make a list of questions about the job, the company or the community. This shows that you are prepared for the interview and eager to learn more about the role.

Example: “Yes, I do. I was wondering how much time off employees get each year? Also, I noticed there is an employee wellness program here. What kinds of activities does it include?”

When would you use group activities compared to individual activities?

Therapeutic recreation specialists often use both group and individual activities to help clients achieve their goals. Employers ask this question to make sure you understand the differences between these two approaches and when each is most effective. Use your answer to explain that you would consider a client’s preferences, abilities and interests when deciding which approach to take.

Example: “I believe that both group and individual activities have their place in therapeutic recreation. I always start with individualized activities because they allow me to get to know my clients better and learn about their unique needs. From there, I can determine what types of group activities might be beneficial for them. For example, if I notice one of my clients has trouble making eye contact, I may suggest team sports or other activities where they can interact with others while still working on their social skills.”

We want to improve our outreach to the community. What ideas do you have to do this?

The interviewer may ask you this question to see how you can help the facility or organization improve its outreach and community relations. Use your answer to highlight any ideas you have for improving outreach, including ways you plan to implement these ideas.

Example: “I think one way we could improve our outreach is by creating a social media presence. I would create accounts on all major platforms so that we can share information about our programs and services with the public. We could also use social media to promote special events and fundraisers. Another idea I have is to start a blog where we can write articles about therapeutic recreation and related topics. This could be an excellent resource for people who want to learn more about our services.”

Describe your process for creating a recreational program.

Therapeutic recreation specialists need to be able to create programs that are fun and engaging for their clients. Employers ask this question to make sure you have the skills needed to plan a program from start to finish. In your answer, explain how you would go about creating a program for a client or group of clients. Explain what steps you would take to ensure the program is successful.

Example: “I always begin by talking with my supervisor and the client’s therapist to get an idea of what they’re looking for in a recreational program. I then meet with the client to learn more about their interests and preferences. From there, I develop a list of potential activities based on the information I’ve gathered. I try to choose activities that will help the client achieve their goals while also being enjoyable.”

What makes you stand out from other therapeutic recreation specialists?

Employers ask this question to learn more about your unique skills and abilities. They want to know what makes you a valuable candidate for their open position. When answering this question, think of two or three things that make you stand out from other therapeutic recreation specialists. These can be specific skills or experiences that relate to the job description.

Example: “I am passionate about working with children in therapy. I have been doing so for five years now, and I still love it as much as when I started. In fact, I would say I am even better at my job than when I first started because I have gained more experience over time. Another thing that makes me stand out is my ability to work well under pressure. I always meet deadlines and stay organized.”

Which recreational activities do you enjoy the most?

This question can help the interviewer learn more about your personality and interests. It can also show them which activities you enjoy doing with clients. When answering this question, try to choose a few recreational activities that you genuinely enjoy. If you have never done any therapeutic recreation work before, it is okay to say so.

Example: “I love playing sports, especially basketball. I also really enjoy swimming because it’s such an excellent way to exercise while having fun. In my previous role as a lifeguard, I helped children learn how to swim in a safe environment. I would often lead games of Marco Polo or other pool-related games to keep kids entertained and focused on their swimming.”

What do you think is the most important aspect of your job?

This question can help the interviewer determine how you prioritize your work and what skills you use to complete it. Your answer should show that you understand the role of a therapeutic recreation specialist and are qualified for the job.

Example: “I think the most important aspect of my job is ensuring that clients have fun while they’re participating in recreational activities. I always make sure to include games, music and other elements that will keep them engaged and having fun. This helps me create an enjoyable experience for them so they want to participate in our programs.”

How often do you update your skills and knowledge?

Therapeutic recreation specialists need to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in their field. Employers ask this question to make sure you are committed to your professional development. In your answer, share how you plan to continue learning throughout your career. Explain what resources you use to learn about new techniques and technologies.

Example: “I am passionate about my work as a therapeutic recreation specialist. I love finding ways to help people have fun while also improving their health and well-being. To keep myself motivated, I regularly attend conferences and workshops where I can learn from other professionals. I also subscribe to several online newsletters that provide tips for working with different populations. By staying informed, I feel confident that I can meet the needs of any client.”

There is a new treatment that hasn’t been approved by insurance companies yet. A patient wants to know if it’s okay to try it. What do you tell them?

This question is a great way to see how you would handle an ethical dilemma. It’s important that therapeutic recreation specialists are able to make their own decisions and not just follow the rules of insurance companies.

Example: “I would tell them that I can’t speak for the insurance company, but if they want to try it, we can find out more about it together. If it seems like something that could help them, then I will do my best to get them access to it.”


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