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Leisure Therapy

What is Leisure Therapy?

Leisure Therapy is “the specialised application of recreation and experiential interventions that assist in maintaining or improving health status, functional capabilities and ultimately the quality of life of people.” (QLD Leisure Therapy Network, 2010) Leisure Therapy treatment services are designed to restore, remediate and rehabilitate a person’s level of functioning and independence in life activities, to promote health and wellness, as well as to reduce or eliminate the activity limitations and restrictions to participation in life situations caused by an illness or disability. There is a specific focus on the holistic wellbeing and health of individuals through recreation and leisure with programs and interventions that have measurable outcomes.

Leisure activities can enhance self esteem, create hope and a sense of freedom and control whilst participation can help to improve psychological wellbeing. Leisure can also give people the sense of participating in activities that ‘every day people do’.

Leisure Therapy Practice Domains (Queensland Leisure Therapy Network, 2015)

Practice Domain Description Purpose
Systematic reworking and directing of hobbies, activities and interests to broad therapeutic purposes. In applications both general and specific, it matches the characteristics of leisure experience with the problem needs of individuals (Juniper, 2003) Increase social awareness, increase and foster important connections, improve leisure behaviour, increase ability to network
The development of different modes of leisure behaviour which enable individuals to adapt to the environment to meet free time needs (Witt et al., 1981) Increase structured use of leisure time, decrease perceived barriers to participation, increase ability to use leisure as a coping strategy, increase ability to resource
The assessment of leisure attitude, leisure motivators and vitality sought through leisure as well as exploration of leisure identity Assist with adjustment to/acceptance of disability, increase self-confidence, increase self-efficacy, increase leisure awareness
The assessment of physical and psychosocial function related to leisure activities, adaptation to identified activities and exploration of alternatives. Increase participation, increase ability to overcome barriers
Leisure Based
The promotion of leisure linkages and access, travel training/retraining and community-based participation in identified leisure pursuits  Increase participation, increase awareness, improve confidence and independence
The use of leisure-specific guided imagery, stress and relaxation management, distraction techniques and redirection of attention to purposeful tasks via leisure activities Decrease boredom, decrease distress, increase relaxation skill base

Juniper, D 2003, ‘Leisure counselling in stress management’ Work Study, vol. 52, no. 1, pp 7-12

Witt, Campbell & Witt, A Manual of Therapeutic Group Activities for Leisure Education, 1981

Leisure Therapy within the Spinal Injuries Unit

Interventions can include:

  • Initial Leisure Therapy Assessment and Goal Setting
  • Individual Personal Recreation Programs
  • Leisure Education and Awareness
  • Leisure Advocacy
  • Leisure Modification
  • Creative and Expressive Recreation
  • Leisure Based Community Integration
  • Reminiscence and Re-socialisation
  • Provision of equipment
  • Leisure based stress management/relaxation
  • Support from PAH Recreation Support Volunteers
  • Liaison with family, friends, carers and health professionals

 Benefits can include:

  • Better recovery time and shortened hospital stay
  • Improved compliance with health care regime
  • Creation of hope
  • Increases in positive thinking & reduced fixation on disability 
  • Sense of freedom and control
  • Increased self esteem
  • Increased quality of life
  • Improved long term health status & reduction of health risk factors
  • Improved cognitive functioning
  • Improvement in psychosocial/psychological health and wellbeing
  • Decrease in symptoms of stress and depression
  • Improvement in social interaction skills
  • Establishment or re-establishment of successful community integration


Recreation is a positive medium whereby a person with a disability can develop and nurture their sense of purpose and self-esteem. Several studies confirm that leisure activities allow people to resist the social stereotypes and prejudices of disability.” (Ungar et al 2008)

"Recreation's purpose is not to kill time, but to make life, not to keep a person occupied, but to keep them refreshed; not to offer an escape from life, but to provide a discovery of life." (Anonymous)

Last updated: 4 March 2021

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