Recreation Therapy for Troubled Teens

We don’t believe that teens are struggling, but we recognize that they have had trouble adapting to life transitions and coping with stress in a healthy way. The cycle of negative emotions and risky behaviors in teens is reinforced by a loss of interest in healthy social activities they used to enjoy. Giving struggling teens opportunities to participate in recreation therapy helps them find meaning in positive experiences and develop a positive sense of identity. 

What Is Recreation Therapy?

Recreational therapy is a type of therapy that uses forms of recreation as a way to therapeutically intervene in an individual’s life. These forms of recreation are activities that are modified slightly to have a therapeutic aspect to them. For example, expressive art can be used as a wonderful way for a struggling teen to articulate their emotions in a safe and healthy way—it also happens to be a relaxing and fun activity. Sports can also be used in recreational therapy in order to inspire communication skills and healthy relationships with peers.

Why Offer Recreation Therapy?

Labeling teens as struggling often denies them rites of passage, like learning to have fun in healthy ways. As humans, we need relaxation, socialization, and time to blow off steam–recreational therapy focuses on these needs. It’s not just about having fun, it’s about developing the necessary skills to succeed and move through life more smoothly. Residential treatment centers offer “real-world” experiences as well as therapeutic support to allow teens to apply the skills they’ve learned to other settings they will be exposed to when they transition home. 

Types of Recreation Therapy:

  • Physical Fitness Programming –  Structured physical fitness activities occur 7 days a week for at least an hour a day. Activities include yoga, aerobics, weight training, individual and team sports along with basic circuit exercises.
  • Outdoor Education & Leadership – These activities occur weekly and are rooted in progressive skill sets that are implemented during organized activities. Ski touring, alpine skiing & snowboarding, rock climbing, canyoneering, rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, backpacking are offered on a rotating basis.
  • Experiential Education – These activities occur quarterly either on campus, during parent seminars or at the ropes course. The intention of these activities is to address specific needs of the participating group. Activities may involve the whole team, select individuals or specialty groups.
  • Community Service Learning – These activities occur quarterly and are intended to help the resident overcome stereotypes and contribute to needed projects in the community. Activities are often related to the environment, recreation resources and community education.
  • Leisure Education – These activities occur quarterly and are focused on pro-social activities in the community. Often, these activities are nothing more than what a normal adolescent would do for leisure. Community events, movies, sporting events, and going out to eat are examples of how this component is implemented.
  • Clubs – These activities occur on a weekly basis and are designed to give students the opportunity to choose and participate in something that they like. Clubs run for approximately 8 weeks and skills growth or learning is progressive. Examples include running, swimming, music, automotive repair, wilderness survival skills, football, triathlon training, soccer, bouldering, volleyball, and strength training.

Elevations RTC Can Help

Elevations RTC is an all gender residential treatment center for teens ages 13-18 that helps teens struggling with mental health issues and risky and impulsive behaviors. We understand that risky behaviors may be influenced by a variety of underlying issues and use a multidisciplinary approach to address how risky behaviors have impacted students’ functioning. We provide intensive psychiatric medical care, educational support, group therapy, and experiential learning to help students learn more about their own behavior and set goals for their personal success. Elevations is relationship-based and utilizes recreation therapy to help teens move forward and develop healthier coping skills.

Call today to learn more about recreation therapy for struggling teens!


Elevations Quick Facts

Leading RTC Accreditations


Ages 13 – 18

Comprehensive Medical / Psych

Community-based Approach

Fun, Experiential

Accredited Academics

Real-World Setting

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