Location: Indiana, United States

I became a Professor Emeritus after serving 29 years as a recreational therapy faculty member at Indiana University. I'm a long-time Hoosier, having grown up in Hanover, Indiana. My RT practitioner work was in psych/mental health. After completing my Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, my first faculty position was at the University of North Texas. RT has been a wonderful profession for me as I have had the opportunity to serve as an author and national leader.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Recreation: Right or Reward?

Celia, a student at Douglas College in Canada, recently commented to the post "Students Using RT Blog." In her comment she mentions she is working on a paper on "Recreation: Right or Reward?" She asked me to provide my thoughts on the topic of her paper. So I thought I'd post my thoughts. So here goes.

First, most authorities agree that the term recreation is defined as intrinsic behavior. The leading researchers in the area of intrinsic motivation have been two psychologists, E.L. Deci and R.M. Ryan. I commend their work to anyone who want to study intrinsic motivation. They have authored a classic book on the topic with the title of Intrinsic motivation and self-determination.

The concepts of control and self-determination are central in much of my writings. My Health Protection/Health Promotion Model for RT practice certainly has self-direction and control as central features -- see Austin, D.R. (2004) Therapeutic Recreation Processes and Techniques (5th edition) for more information on the HP/HP Model.

In the prescriptive activities part of the HP/HP Model, motivation is primarily extrinsic with the intent of moving the client toward intrinsic motivation. In the recreation portion of the model the motivation is largely intrinsic as the therapist and client work together to select recreational activities that have therapeutic value. In the leisure portion of the model the client's motivation is intrinsic as he or she self determines health enhancing activities.

In my book, I write about the prescriptive activity portion, which is the initial part of a continuum that ranges from poor heatlh to optimal health. I have written: "Clients, at this time of threat to health, are not ready for recreation or leisure. For such individuals, activity becomes a necessary prerequisite to health restoration. In order to gain control over the situation and to overcome feelings of helplessness and depression, they must begin to actively engage in life. Prescriptive activity may be necessary in order to energize them so that they are not passive victims of their circumstances but begin to take action to restore their health" (p. 177).

The function of prescriptive activities is then to "combat patients' demoralization and heighten their hopes for relief" (Frank & Frank, 1991, p. 33). Thus prescriptive activities are a first step in helping clients to regain feelings of control over their lives. For a detailed discussion of the concept of control, please see the chapter "Control: A Major Element in Therapeutic Recreation" in Austin, Dattilo & McCormick's (2002) book titled Conceptual Foundations for Therapeutic Recreation. The chapter offers RTs ideas on how to help clients to regain control in their lives.

Thus, within my model, intrinsic motivation is something that is strived for but generally isn't present at the time when clients are in poor health. It is only when they move from the prescriptive activities portion of the continuun (when they are in poor health) into the recreation portion and, finally, to the leisure portion that intrinsic motivation is apparent.

In sum, to me, intrinsically motived recreation is something that everyone should have a right to experience. Yet, when persons are very sick, they may not feel they have the level of control to experience the self-determination necessary to enjoy true recreation. At this time of poor health they may require the outside assistance of the recreational therapist to help them toward restoring health (and a feeling of control).

I should go on to say that sometimes children (and some adults) are not fully ready to make mature self-determinations. My 4-year old grandson sometimes needs to have restrictions placed on him due to his behavior. For instance, if he chooses not to eat his food at dinner time he may lose priviledges such as playing with a valued toy. Of course, he has a choice to eat or not eat -- but he has to learn that they are consequences for behaviors and that he may lose priviledges if he makes bad decisions. In that sense, play or recreation is not a "right" because (as a child) he has not yet earned the right to self-determination.

So, in the end, recreation is a "right" for those who are mature enough to exercise intrinsic motivation. For those who are not ready to assume responsibility and control over their lives, perhaps recreation is not really a right they should expect.

At least that is what I think now -- of course (as Dennis Miller always concludes), I could be wrong! Thanks, Celia, for making me think. Best of luck with your paper!


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