By Diana Proemm
“The bigger picture” came about in attempt to blend my two passions of photography and recreation therapy. After my first experience working with a Special Olympian at Alpine Alternatives in Alaska many years ago, I was hooked. I decided to change my life course, go back to school, and obtain a degree in Therapeutic Recreation. I signed-on at the University of Idaho and upon graduating passed my national exam to become a Certified Therapeutic Recreational Specialist (CTRS). CTRS’ can be found in fields such as mental health, rehab hospitals, assisted living facilities and adaptive recreation centers. I chose to follow the adaptive recreation route and interned at the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah; worked for Telluride Adaptive Sports; Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra, five years with Eagle Mount and now have started the Bigger Picture RT. I facilitated outdoor recreation programs with each of these organizations and built an adventure summer program from the ground up with Eagle Mount.
As I move on to inspiring stories in the upcoming months I thought I would describe what recreation therapy or therapeutic recreation (RT/TR) is and what it is I do in my day job. RT/TR can restore, remediate or rehabilitate in order to improve function and independence. It can reduce or eliminate the effects of an illness or disability, and facilitate the development of new skills for daily living. RT/TR promotes leisure awareness to enhance someone’s quality of life.
Throughout the last ten years I have been in the outdoor adaptive recreation field, witnessed many powerful moments and I have had the opportunity to work with all ages and numerous disabilities. When I started in the field, I felt selfish because I seemed to get more out of helping someone than they did doing the activity. I am not alone in this feeling, and had many volunteers express they feel the same way when I was directing an adaptive program for Eagle Mount. Taking someone with a disability out skiing is addictive, as you’ll want to do it over and over again. The smile that the participant gives you warms your heart and like an addictive narcotic, you’ll want to see more and more of it. Witnessing the tears of joy a parent gets because they never thought their child would be able to ski or recreate, or say their first words because of their recreation experience is even more impressive. You have given that family a very special gift that they couldn’t have achieved on their own.
One mother states, “The memories they have are not about the first steps he’s taken, it’s about the first time he put on skis, paddled a kayak or climbed up a rock wall.” I had the pleasure of working with her son when he paddled his first kayak and climbed his first rock wall and I have seen him grow mentally and physically over the years, and watched him climb higher on the rock, until we had to set up a harder climbing route. This is recreation therapy at it’s finest, when a participant figures out that he can do anything he wants with a little encouragement and guidance. This is what recreational therapists do; they provide positive recreational experiences that contribute to social, emotional, physical and spiritual growth. They provide a path to independence.
What are you waiting for?? Sign up for your next Recreation Therapy session or check out the Bigger Picture Trips specializing in travel with a purpose for women who suffer from anxiety, PTSD and depression.