Recreational Therapist Explains How She Entered the Field and Why She Loves Her Role
Shannon Ali, CTRS, lead recreational therapist in Shepherd Center’s Spinal Cord Injury Day Program, discusses the unique bonds she forms with her patients.
Q: How long have you worked at Shepherd Center?
I have worked at Shepherd Center for 13 years.
Q: How would you define what recreational therapists do?
We do skills, education and community reintegration to get people to living life again, however that looks for that individual and their family.
Q: What is the process to become a rec therapist?
It’s a four-year degree. I have a Bachelor of Science with a concentration in therapeutic recreation and a minor in psychology. Then you do an internship. Once the internship ends, you sit for a national exam to become certified.
Q: What inspired you to become a recreational therapist?
We always joke, “How did you fall into rec therapy?” because many of us didn’t initially start out on that track in school. When I was in college, I was a student-athlete and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I went to my counselor, and I told them what I was interested in: I wanted to do something different each day, work with people, be active, and work with families and kids. My counselor advised I try rec therapy. In one of my classes, we did a six-week camp for kids with disabilities from the community and I fell in love with that work. After that, I knew I wanted to pursue recreational therapy for a career!
Q: What has kept you at Shepherd Center for 13 years?
The patients keep me here. Each day is different and I’m always working with someone new on their goals. I’ve created lifelong friendships with some of my former patients. I’m actually going to a wedding this year for one of my kiddos who was 13 when he was my patient and now he’s getting married. Just seeing how what I did with them while they were here has helped them be successful and live their lives to the fullest is so rewarding.
Q: What’s one thing you want people to know about your profession?
Recreational therapists take a holistic view about each of our patients, including the physical, cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and put it all together to come up with an individualized plan. We treat the whole person.
Kent State University; Bachelor of Science with a concentration in therapeutic recreation and a minor in psychology
CTRS: Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist
- Shannon ran track and field from the age of 10 through college. She even received a full scholarship for college as a student-athlete.
- Shannon has a daughter who is 15 and a half years old (she clarified that it’s very important to include the “half”).
Interview by Damjana Alverson
Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.