Rec Therapy Month Student Spotlight- Jessie Thomson

February is National Recreational Therapy month! Join us as we celebrate all month long and catch up with current students and alumni.

Name: Jessie Thomson
Graduation year: Spring 2021

What do you do outside of Recreational Therapy?
In my free time I enjoy engaging in leisure activities like hanging out with friends, walking my dog, finding new music to listen to, and making digital artwork.

What brought you to ECU?
What initially first attracted me to ECU was the inviting and friendly atmosphere and community, the numerous student organizations that I can engage with, as well as the great recreational therapy program reputation that the university has to offer.

Why do you want to enter the field of recreational therapy?
Leisure, recreation, and play are so vital for humans that we almost take it for granted and do not think about the real benefits these activities have for us. I wanted to enter the recreational therapy field so that I can help individuals maximize their potential through engaging in leisure interventions that are accessible, inclusive, therapeutic, and evidence-based. Recreational therapists help people live their life in the fullest way they possibly can, because what is a life if you are not out there living it!

Tell us about your current internship? 
I am currently doing a virtual internship through Special People in Northeast Philadelphia (SPIN). SPIN works with adults in the community with intellectual developmental disabilities through a day program filled with various classes, programs, and activities. While I was very nervous about starting a completely virtual internship, I have been blown away with the success SPIN has had through their virtual day programs. It is amazing to see all of the participants meeting virtually, socializing with their friends, and engaging in therapeutic recreation during a time like COVID. Although I am only a few weeks into my internship I have already learned so much by observing all the classes and seeing the different facilitation styles of all 8 of the CTRS that work at SPIN. I have also started working on a special project with SPIN which is to increase community engagement with their participants by reaching out to agencies, organizations, and people to join our virtual classes as guest speakers. So far, I have been planning a “Bringing the Zoo to You” event, where local family-owned zoo, “It’s a Zoo Life”, will be virtually joining our participants in Philly from North Carolina to show and teach us about some of their zoo animals! I am very excited to continue my internship and absorb all of the information I can to become the best recreational therapist I can be in the future.

What aspects of recreation​al therapy do you enjoy the most?   
My favorite thing about recreational therapy is that we are not confined in a small box for any of our treatment plans as we work to help individuals increase their overall health and quality of life. We include a wide variety of modalities such as exercise, art, animal-assisted therapy, music, board games, gardening, leisure education, sports, and the list goes on and on from there. All of these activities are used to benefit the individuals cognitively, socially, emotionally, and physically.

What has been your favorite experience working in recreational therapy so far?
My favorite experience working in recreational therapy so far is making connections with so many different people and hearing from their loved ones how much they value the recreational therapy program offered at SPIN. For many of the participants, joining the virtual classes throughout the day is the only form of socialization and meaningful leisure participation they engage in for the day.

Do you have a favorite Rec Therapy course or professor?
Throughout my time in the recreational therapy program at ECU I would have to say my favorite courses were the RT Physical and Movement Interventions with Dr. Autry and RT Cognitive and Psychosocial Interventions with Mrs. Whisner. I really enjoyed how hands-on and interactive these classes were by allowing us to learn about various evidence-based interventions by actually participating or facilitating them with our fellow classmates. All of my professors have been so incredible and helpful these past few years in the RT program. They truly want all of their students to succeed and you can see their love of the RT profession through the way the teach and interact with everyone. The RT program at ECU has taught me so much and prepared me for my internship more so than I ever thought and for that I am so grateful!