What Does a Therapeutic Specialist Do?

M.C. Huguelet

The term therapeutic specialist can be used to refer to two fairly distinct job categories. Some people use this term to refer to therapeutic recreation specialists. This type of therapist plans and implements therapeutic leisure activities for individuals of all ages and with a wide range of physical and emotional issues. Others use the term therapeutic specialist in a more general fashion to refer to practitioners of various types of complementary medicine, such as acupuncture or massage. The nature of the training required to become a therapeutic specialist depends on which type of therapy will be practiced.

Therapeutic specialists might help people overcome social phobias.
Therapeutic specialists might help people overcome social phobias.

In some cases, the term therapeutic specialist is used in reference to therapeutic recreation specialists. This type of therapist is often based in a hospital, rehabilitation center, or elderly care facility, where she works with clients from all age groups who have physical or emotional issues. The role of the therapist is to promote recovery and well-being among her clients through the planning and implementation of leisure activities. For instance, she may help children who have been abused to build trust and social skills by organizing team sports games. She may encourage clients in an elderly care facility to retain a sense of independence by taking them on outings to the movie theater or the grocery store.

Therapeutic specialists may plan activities patients can do with their families.
Therapeutic specialists may plan activities patients can do with their families.

For some, the term therapeutic specialist has a more general meaning which is applicable to practitioners of various types of complementary or non-Western medicine. Exactly what this type of therapeutic specialist does depends on her area of specialty. An acupuncturist, for instance, places needles at various points on a client’s skin, working on the principle that these needles will free the client’s energy and in turn improve her well-being. A massage therapist uses various techniques to rub and manipulate her clients’ muscles, thereby relieving pain and promoting relaxation.

Pregnant women may benefit from therapeutic massage.
Pregnant women may benefit from therapeutic massage.

Determining what kind of training is required to become a therapeutic specialist depends on which type of therapy will be practiced. A recreation specialist commonly needs a four-year degree in a relevant field from an accredited college or university. The type of training required to become a specialist in complementary medicine can vary more widely. In the US, for instance, acupuncturists are usually required to complete a master’s degree, a minimum number of training hours, and an examination to become certified. Conversely, the minimum training required to become a massage therapist can vary widely from state to state.

Some therapeutic specialists perform specialized massage techniques to alleviate pain from a sports injury.
Some therapeutic specialists perform specialized massage techniques to alleviate pain from a sports injury.
A therapeutic specialist may help a child develop trust and social skills through being involved in team sports.
A therapeutic specialist may help a child develop trust and social skills through being involved in team sports.
A massage therapist is one type of therapeutic specialist.
A massage therapist is one type of therapeutic specialist.
A therapeutic specialist may work with elderly patients.
A therapeutic specialist may work with elderly patients.

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