Therapeutic Recreation (TR) is the provision of treatment services and recreation services to persons with illnesses or disabling conditions. The primary purposes of treatment services (also called recreation therapy) are to restore, remediate, or rehabilitate in order to improve functioning and independence. The primary purpose of recreation services is to provide recreation and leisure resources and opportunities to help improve health and well-being and enhance quality of life.

Therapeutic Recreation Specialists may work in hospitals, residential care, long-term care, schools, and a variety of community settings. Individuals served include people with mental, physical, or emotional disabilities. A variety of recreation/leisure activities are employed as tools to help those served attain independence and a high quality of life.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, "The rapidly growing number of older adults is expected to spur job growth for recreational therapy professionals and paraprofessionals in assisted-living facilities, adult daycare programs, and other social assistance agencies. Continued growth also is expected in community residential care facilities, as well as daycare programs for individuals with disabilities." Given the projected need for recreation specialists, the College of Health Professions and Sciences at UWM has created a certificate program in Therapeutic Recreation (TR) available to a broad range of individuals, including students and TR and other human service professionals in the community. In addition, individuals who are certified with the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) may wish to complete certificate coursework to comply with continuing education requirements.

The certificate focuses on the development of knowledge and acquisition of skills and abilities in the areas of health and TR. Courses present the concepts of health, wellness, disease, and illness in relation to quality of life for individuals with disabilities. Specific skill development in the areas of assessment and facilitation techniques is also taught and complemented with an ongoing focus on emerging issues in the field of therapeutic recreation. In preparation for the nationally recognized certification examination, coursework covers topic areas included in the NCTRC Job Analysis categories. The program may be taken by UWM undergraduates concurrently with their chosen major, or as a post-baccalaureate educational certificate program.

Related Programs and Degrees

Students interested in pursuing a career in Therapeutic Recreation may wish to examine one of the following degree programs at UWM:

Bachelor of Art

  • Psychology
  • Sociology

Bachelor of Science

  • Biological Sciences
  • Nursing
  • Occupational Studies
  • Social Work


  • Completion of this certificate program partially fulfills the academic coursework requirements for the NCTRC Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist credential. Additional requirements are needed to fully qualify for the credential.
  • Students interested in obtaining NCTRC certification are encouraged to visit the NCTRC website at

For more information about the certificate program, contact Patricia Thomas, TR Certificate Coordinator, at (414) 229-2507 or


Six courses are required to successfully complete the totally online Certificate in Therapeutic Recreation. A minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.5 must be maintained on all the required coursework.

TR Certificate Coursework   

Introductory courses
Select one of the following:3
Life Balance: An Understanding of Leisure (SU/F/S)
Disability: Society and the Person (F)
Therapeutic Recreation Process (SU/F) 1
Intervention courses
Select four of the following:12
Therapeutic Recreation Assessment and Documentation (S) 1
Inclusive and Disability Programs in the Community (F)
Therapeutic Recreation in Physical Rehabilitation and Behavioral Health (F) 1
Therapeutic Recreation in Pediatrics and Gerontology 1
Facilitation Techniques in Therapeutic Recreation (S) 1
Capstone course
THERREC 400Issues and Trends in Therapeutic Recreation (TR) (SU/F) 13
Total Credits18

Required for students seeking the credential as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) with the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC).

F, S, SU (fall, spring, summer) refers to the semesters in which courses are taught.