Impact of Inclusive Service-Learning Partnership on Mental Health Among Therapeutic Recreation College Students


  • Lyn Gorbett Litchke Texas State University
  • Toni Watt Professor of Sociology, Texas State University.
  • Christine Lynn Norton Associate Professor of Social Work, Texas State University
  • Casey Finley Graduate Assistant, Therapeutic Recreation, Department of Health and Human Performance,Texas State University



inclusion, mental health, recreation therapy, resilience, service-learning


This study investigated the mental health implications of a service-learning partnership between therapeutic recreation (TR) college students and children/youth in a recreation inclusion program. Twenty-five TR students participated in 6-week inclusion program with a child/ youth partner with or without a disability. Resiliency results exhibited a directional increase (d<=.10) with three subscales significant in change for student’s ability to deal with: whatever comes my way (p < .029), seeing the humorous side of things (p < .035), and coping with stress (p < .029). Further analysis found significance that males (p = .045) and racial/ethnic minority participants (p = .021.) had reduced their stress scores. Enjoyment scores significantly increased (p < .001). Analysis of reflection notes revealed two main themes: (1) emotional contagion, and (2) reducing stress and anxiety. These themes relate to key aspects of resilience, which demonstrates the value of service-learning for TR college students and the therapeutic potential for mental health support. Practice and research implications of service learning for TR are presented.Subscribe to TRJ

Author Biographies

Lyn Gorbett Litchke, Texas State University

 Dr. Lyn Litchke is an Associate Professor of Therapeutic Recreation in the Department of Health and Human Performance at Texas State University where she has taught for 18 years. She is the 2016 recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Service. Lyn has been a CTRS for over 30 years and is a master trainer in Drumtastic®.

Toni Watt, Professor of Sociology, Texas State University.

Dr. Toni Watt is a Professor of Sociology at Texas State University. Dr. Watt received her PhD in Sociology with an emphasis in Demography from the University of Texas at Austin. Her research is both academic and applied and focuses on improving outcomes for children and youth who have experienced trauma and/or the foster care system.

Christine Lynn Norton, Associate Professor of Social Work, Texas State University

Dr. Christine Lynn Norton is an Associate Professor at Texas State. She received her Ph.D. in Social Work from Loyola University Chicago. She has a Master of Arts in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago and a Master of Science in Experiential Education from Minnesota State University-Mankato. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Board Approved Supervisor in the State of Texas.

Casey Finley, Graduate Assistant, Therapeutic Recreation, Department of Health and Human Performance,Texas State University

Casey Finley has a Master's Degree in Recreation and Leisure Sciences with a concentration in Therapeutic Recreation. She is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist and Drumtastic® Instructor. Casey has fourteen years experience working with children with disabilities in various settings focusing on accessible camps.





Research Papers