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USM Recreational Therapy Program Earns Accreditation

Tue, 11/28/2023 - 02:38pm | By: Van Arnold

The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) Recreational Therapy program has reached a momentous milestone with accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). The next evaluation will take place in 2028.

Therapeutic Recreation (TR), also known as recreational therapy, uses recreation and other activity-based interventions to address the needs of individuals with illnesses and/or disabling conditions to improve health, well-being, and quality of life.

“Our accreditation acknowledges a high standard for learning outcomes in our program,” said program coordinator Megan Marlowe. “In addition, it expands our internship opportunities in the nation. We are proud of all the alumni and students who helped make this happen and look forward to a bright future.”  

TR is a growing health profession with many outlets for career pursuits. Graduates of the program are working as recreational therapists in long-term care, mental health and addiction programs, at-risk youth programs, physical rehabilitation, and community and school-based therapeutic recreation.

Noteworthy highlights from the USM program include:

  • One of the few accredited RT programs in the country
  • Co-sponsors of the largest regional Recreational Therapy conference annually
  • Full-semester internship requirement where students get hands-on experience
  • Strong foundation in education (more than 36 years)
  • Hosts the annual RecFest, where senior-level students lead other RT students through RT activities/experiences

“Achieving accreditation is huge step for any program,” said Dr. Melissa Kossman, Director, School of Health Professions at USM. “This benefits faculty by keeping curriculum and resources up-to-date, establishing processes and policies, and demonstrating their expertise within the professional field. Students can benefit from knowing that they are joining a program that prioritizes their knowledge and experience as it relates to becoming a healthcare professional.”

Kossman credits longtime coordinator Dr. Rick Green for helping elevate the program to its current status as a national leader. Green, who retired last May, served for more than 30 years as the program’s coordinator.

Green explains that the program began in 1972 as part of the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER), which later became the School of Human Performance and Recreation. The program received initial accreditation in 1986 by the Council on Accreditation of the National Recreation and Parks Association and the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism, and Related Programs (NRPA-AALR). At this time, Recreational Therapy was known as Therapeutic Recreation, and it was included in the accreditation as an Option Area under the primary recreation program umbrella.

In 2009, the accrediting body evolved into the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Tourism, and Related Professions (COAPRT). The USM program’s last accrediting period was 2011-2016. During that time, the program underwent a series of changes – chief among these included a national movement to refocus Therapeutic Recreation from a recreation-based program to one with a focus on healthcare.

In 2016, Therapeutic Recreation dropped the COAPRT accreditation. Two years later, as a result of a University-wide reorganization, Therapeutic Recreation (along with Athletic Training and Kinesiotherapy) moved from the School of Kinesiology to the School of Health Professions.

In 2020, the TR Option Area received permission to pursue accreditation under a new accrediting review body, The Committee on the Accreditation of Recreational Therapy Education (CARTE), with a focus on healthcare. Green and his team undertook the arduous task of earning accreditation with a 555-page self-study. In 2021, the Therapeutic Recreation Option Area officially changed its name to Recreational Therapy and became an official program within the School of Health Professions.

In February of this year, the self-study was completed and sent to CARTE which then passed along a recommendation for accreditation to the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

“The administration at USM, from the director to the dean, and all the way up have been incredibly supportive of the program and the efforts made for accreditation,” said Green. The current program is sound, with excellent staff. They now have a path that I believe will lead them to continue their pursuit of excellence.”

Kossman notes that through the continued passionate work from RT faculty members Marlowe, Earnie Pheal (instructor) and Dr. Jungjoo Lee (assistant professor), the program’s future looks brighter than ever.

To learn more about the Recreational Therapy program at USM, call 601.266.5576.