The Alberta Therapeutic Recreation Association(ATRA) is the provincial body representing the profession since its inception in 1985. It is a voluntary association that in the absence of regulation has provided governance to its members through establishing standards of practice, a code of ethics, entry to practice requirements and a continuing competence program. ATRA is registered under the Societies Act and is currently pursuing regulation under the Health Professions Act (HPA).
The fundamental concerns and inadequacies of recreation therapy being an unregulated profession and not being able to ensure public protection and safety in Alberta include:
- No mandatory registration.
- No title protection.
- No authority to register or investigate complaints from employers regarding unprofessional conduct of individual recreation therapists, which poses a potential risk to clients and employers.
- Recreation therapists not being subject to the same discipline that those under the HPA are held accountable to.
- Patients assuming that recreation therapists are regulated and as such are potentially vulnerable due to the lack of regulatory safeguards in place to ensure that all recreation therapists in the province are registered, meet standards of practice, code of ethics, education and continuing competence requirements.
- Recreation therapists who are unaware of the boundaries between psychosocial intervention and the restricted activity of psychosocial intervention which requires supervision by an authorized regulated health professional, specialized training, and meeting defined competencies.
Recreation Therapists work with vulnerable patients who are frail, palliative, lonely, isolated and depressed, experience loss of control and independence, lack support systems, have inadequate boundaries and are therefore vulnerable to abuse (e.g., physical, sexual, financial, emotional) from others, including health care professionals that they trust. Furthermore, risk may be amplified for patients receiving services in one-to-one situations and alone in their homes.
Regulation of recreation therapists would provide additional protection to patients from abuse and misconduct; and heighten the awareness, confidence and expectations of the public, patients, health employers and other health professionals. It would provide a clear public interest mandate, and would enable education of the public as to the role of a recreation therapist in a collaborative health care team. The public would be able to access the appropriate services that they require, as there would be clear expectations of the service provided and clinical outcomes to be obtained by a recreation therapist.
Health Professions Act, A new law for regulated health professionals.
Alberta Health Services (2012), Overview of the Health Professions Act of Alberta: Implications for clinical practice. HPA (2004) Employers Handbook.
Regulation ensures that Albertans are receiving competent and ethical services through:
- Protection of the public through mandatory registration with the college
- Mandatory continuing competence requirements
- Enforcement of standards of practice and codes of ethics
- Fair and consistent regulatory processes for registration and disciplinary procedures for all professions
- Practice statements and protected titles identifying uniqueness for each profession.
Our therapeutic recreation profession should be accountable for its practice, the same way our colleagues are. Albertans should know that they are receiving competent and ethical health services from Recreation Therapists through mandatory registration that ensures standards of practice, entry to practice, continuing competence criteria and code of ethics are met.
(Reference: ATRA, (2013) Risk to the Public for Recreation Therapists in Alberta). ATRA members can locate this document in the Members section of the ATRA web site in the ATRA Guiding Documents section of the Documents & Forms page.)
A college is a regulatory body (defined by provincial law) that protects and serves the public interest by ensuring all practitioners are registered and that they provide competent and ethical services to Albertans. To do this, the college will investigate concerns or complaints about registered members.
ATRA and the Canadian Therapeutic Recreation Association (CTRA) are voluntary, non-regulated bodies that assist Recreation Therapists in achieving excellence in their professional practice. They offer educational and networking opportunities for its members, promote Therapeutic Recreation (TR) and advocate for TR services to the public and external stakeholders. ATRA performs these roles provincially and CTRA, nationally.
The Alberta government is directing small professions seeking regulation to partner with existing regulated colleges because it’s more fiscally responsible and sustainable. Regulated colleges have had years to develop infrastructure and expertise that can guide and benefit ATRA’s transition to regulation. A combined college creates sustainability for membership numbers and enables funds to support the college and protect the membership.
Examples of combined regulatory colleges in Alberta include:
- The Alberta College of Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) and Audiologists
- The Alberta College of Medical Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technologists
- The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta.
The Alberta government ultimately decides whether or not to move forward with our application for regulation after it assesses risk to the public and the need for regulation of our profession. At this time ongoing discussions continue to reflect progress towards regulation however the government has the ability to stop, delay, or accelerate the process at any time. If Alberta Health supports our HPA Application to become regulated, it would be conditional on securing a partnership with an established regulated college.