Rec Therapy Month Alumni Spotlight Lauren Harrell

February is National Recreational Therapy month! Join us as we celebrate all month long and feature Recreational Therapy students and alumni.

Name: ​Lauren Harrell
Graduation Year: ​2011

How did you become interested in this field? 
I volunteered with Rocking Horse Ranch and the instructor I worked with was a Recreational Therapist. 

What were some of your favorite recreation​al therapy courses while studying here at ECU? ​ 
My favorite classes were the Programming and the Interventions classes, they showed the variety of things that a Recreational Therapist could do! It really is hard however to choose a favorite class when all of them brought their fair share of knowledge into becoming a RT. 

What aspects of recreation​al therapy do you enjoy the most? 
I really have enjoyed the participants I have worked with. I spent almost 9 years at Cypress Glen as my first job and got to know so much about the residents that I worked with. They also taught me so much and how it is so important to have a client centered approach. My other favorite thing is teaching and working with Interns. Knowing that they will soon get to join me in the RT field and making sure they get the hands-on practice to all the knowledge they have been gaining the past 4 years.

Tell us about your current role? 
I am currently the Pirate Wellness Program Supervisor at ECU. ECU was able to create a virtual internship program because of the COVID -19 pandemic to help students meet the internship requirements to become a certified and licensed Recreational Therapist. I was contacted by two of my former mentors and current professors at ECU to see if I was interested in the opportunity and I am so grateful! It has been such an amazing and wonderful job! It has given me the opportunity to really work with RT students to development the skills they will need upon graduation. The past two semesters we have worked with the PCC Career Academy teaching students’ different programs related to life skills, social skills, stress management, exercise, community re-integration, and Cooking.  

Can you tell us what a typical day looks like for you in your role? 
My typical day involves starting off doing morning rounds with the interns, we discuss highlights from the day before and important things upcoming that day. We normally do a silly ice breaker or something fun to get everyone awake and ready for the day. Depending on the day we are working on developing protocols for programs, prepping for those programs, working on documentation, as well as doing individual meetings with the interns to discuss progress. In the afternoons we are implementing the programs with the PCC Career Academy students. These programs are sometimes face to face with proper safety in place or virtual. At the end of the day, we go through and process all the programs to discuss how our participants did and how the intern did with their implementation. 

What has been your favorite experience working in recreational therapy so far?
There is no way possible to pick just one favorite experience I have had more fun and excitement with every step of my career than anyone should be allowed! I worked with amazing people at my time at Cypress Glen we planned such a variety of events for our residents and took them on fun trips! Every day was something new and exciting. It has been the same with EC, watching the students use their creativity and develop programs during such a crazy time they have shown such perseverance.  

Where do you see the future of recreation​al therapy headed?
I really see Recreational Therapy reaching more people that might not have had the opportunity. Between technology and everyone adapting to life the past year I think we have realized the importance of making sure those who are isolation have access to programs that could combat depression, anxiety, promote activity, and overall wellbeing. I truly hope we can work together to reach everyone who needs RT services! We have seen how possible it is to do things virtual so I think we can really reach people in their own homes who would have difficulty going to a program otherwise. 

What is the greatest challenge recreational therapists face?
Every field has its own set of challenges, instead of talking about its challenges I would rather encourage everyone to challenge themselves and make sure they are doing their best to help their clients meet all their needs and help promote the importance of what we do. 

What advice would give to students who wish to enter this field? 
Keep trying new things, keep learning, be creative and adventurous. Your participants will thank you; lifelong learning is so important to keeping any field alive and adapting to how life is always changing.