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.