Recreation Therapy Private Practice: Insights to Get Started

Ever consider providing services in a Recreation Therapy private practice? It’s an excellent opportunity, especially for those RTs with the entrepreneurial spirit. 

But where to begin?

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure to connect with Christine Chipman and write some copy for her Recreation Therapy private practice website, Time Well Spent Senior Wellness

She graciously agreed to guest post about her experience as a private practitioner. 

As we’re all navigating our (almost hopefully) post-COVID lives, I think many of us are reexamining our priorities and discovering ways to have a great career without sacrificing things that are important to us–family, time with friends, OUR leisure.

Sound familiar?  

I hope you’re inspired by what Christine has to say about starting her Recreation Therapy private practice.

Why did you start your Recreation Therapy private practice?

I worked for many years in long-term care and I saw a growing need for recreation therapy services for seniors living alone at home. Often seniors would reluctantly move into care and blossom when they became involved in the recreation therapy programs. 

I thought about how wonderful it would be to deliver these programs to seniors while they continue to live independently in their own homes. Many of the reasons seniors decline in health, such as inactivity and social isolation, can be prevented or delayed through recreation therapy interventions. 

Like many entrepreneurs, I also saw the benefits of being my own boss, setting my own schedule, and pursuing my vision for the company I wanted to create. 

What does a typical private RT session look like?

It has taken a lot of trial and error to develop a program that works for both me and my clients.

When I first meet a client, I conduct an assessment and develop a RT plan that outlines the goals and desired outcomes of our partnership. Then, I typically visit a client in their home once per week for a 1.5-hour session. 

The sessions incorporate both a physical wellness component (ie. chair exercise, walking program) and a social/emotional component (ie. woodworking, reminiscing). Each visit is tailored to the needs and interests of the individual.

Following each session, I provide a written summary to the client and their caregiver. This outlines the progress of the client and the health & wellness benefits of the activities we have selected.

What challenges did you face when starting your Recreation Therapy private practice?

A main challenge when starting a private practice is determining funding sources. Most private recreation therapists are paid directly by clients or their caregivers. 

It can be challenging to determine a suitable rate for service because it needs to reflect the value and expertise of RT support but also be sustainable in your local market. 

It can also be valuable to identify additional funding sources in your region. For example, some areas have government support available for caregiver respite that may include coverage for recreation therapy services. 

Another significant challenge is the limited awareness of Recreation Therapy among the public.

As I mentioned, many families discover Recreation Therapy when their loved one moves into care but are unaware of private Recreation Therapists working in their communities. 

I have also been working to raise awareness among healthcare professionals in my community to encourage referrals for private Recreation Therapy services. When I am marketing my business, I am simultaneously advocating for our profession!

What opportunities do you see for the future of private practice in RT?

I see so many opportunities! 

The first is knowledge sharing among RTs who have an interest in starting a private practice. In some ways, I felt like I was starting from scratch to research liability insurance, business licenses, bookkeeping systems, and all the other logistics of starting a business. 

I am pleased to see more and more collaboration and networking among RTs to support and encourage each other in this journey. 

Another opportunity I would like to explore is the connection between private practice and home healthcare. Many home care companies offer “companion” services. This could be a growing opportunity for RTs to work with home care providers to deliver high quality, person-centred, and evidence-based recreation programs.

Although my primary focus is working with older adults, I see opportunities for private practice to grow in all areas of health and wellness including mental health, addictions, and rehabilitation. Many healthcare support programs have long waitlists and limited resources upon discharge. Clients and families may wish to pay privately to gain ongoing, focused RT care.

What advice do you have for RTs considering starting their own private practice?

I have learned so many lessons already and I’m eager to provide guidance to others. Here are my top tips:

  • Do the math: Make sure you really look at the financial viability of your business before you begin. How much can you charge for your services? How many clients can you see in a day? What does your income need to be? What are your fixed and variable expenses? Are there other ways to generate income such as hiring staff or selling RT-focused products? 
  • Confidence is key: Our services have value and are meaningful to the clients we support. Like many entrepreneurs, I am sometimes faced with “imposter syndrome” and feelings of doubt. However, when I reflect on how much I have achieved and the impact I am making on my clients, their families, and our profession I am encouraged to continue. 
  • Networking: Get to know other RTs who have started their own private practice. What worked for them and what didn’t? Can they share contacts or resources? For example, I connected with Kevin here at The Real Recreation Therapist and he was able to apply his RT background and help me with some freelance writing for my website. Many local associations also have private practice groups to join. 

Want to learn more about Time Well Spent Senior Wellness?

Christine Chipman started her private practice, Time Well Spent Senior Wellness, in late 2020 and has been gradually increasing the number of clients she supports in her community. She brings in-home exercise, cognitive activities, and social programs directly to aging seniors. Her company is based near Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Get in touch, I’d love to hear from other RTs considering private practice!

Check out Christine’s Recreation Therapy private practice website or check out her Facebook page. If you have more questions, use these links to connect with Christine.

Inspired? Check out another article on private practice RT.

Have your own Recreation Therapy private practice story? 

Comment below or contact me. I would love to share.

Be sure to like the The Real Recreation Therapist Facebook Page and join the TRRT FB Community. It’s a great opportunity to connect with other RT and Activity professionals. 


And if you need anything written for you, your business, or nonprofit, check out my writing portfolio and shoot me a message.

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