A Need for Increased Awareness of Disability Models in Recreational Therapy Practice


  • Shelly Beaver Old Dominion University




Recreational therapy, Therapeutic recreation, disability models, medical model, social model, International Classification of Functioning Disability and Health (ICF), disability studies


Inherently embedded within the descriptions, models, and practices of the field of therapeutic recreation, disability models conceptualize disability, guide therapeutic processes and service delivery, and influence client experiences and outcomes. Despite their significance, disability models have received limited attention by the field resulting in inconsistencies within the philosophical underpinnings of the recreational therapy profession. The purpose of this article is to increase awareness of disability models and their implications for recreational therapy practice. A brief conceptual overview of three disability models, including the medical, social, and International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) models, is provided, and the models’ current applications in the field of therapeutic recreation are explored. Utilizing a disability studies lens, a critique of the relationships between each disability model and the core concepts of recreational therapy practice is presented. Commentary is provided to stimulate discussion regarding the need for philosophical consistency of disability values across the profession.


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