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Recreational Therapy and Child Life

Recreational Therapy

The primary focus of recreational therapy is to restore or improve your physical, cognitive, emotional and social functioning through the use of interventions structured to reach treatment goals.

Our staff at UNC Medical Center’s Recreational Therapy Services assists other members of the health care team to create a positive and therapeutic environment by helping to relieve anxieties and stress associated with hospitalization.

Child Life

Child life services are initiated by a physician order for evaluation and treatment. Our staff will assess the needs for services and facilitate interventions such as procedural preparation and support or therapeutic play for healing. Additional services are available to address the psychosocial needs of our pediatric patients and families.

Our child life services are available in Pediatrics and the Burn Center.

Available Services

Our staff at UNC Medical Center helps patients to relieve the stress and anxieties associated with hospitalization and illness through the teaching of coping skills such as relaxation and stress management.

Our recreational therapists will help you to restore or improve your physical, cognitive, emotional and social functioning through the use of interventions structured to reach treatment goals.

  • Relaxation
  • Stress Management
  • Coping Skills
  • Anger Management
  • Movement and Exercise for wellness
  • Emotional Self-regulation
  • Therapeutic Play for healing
  • Procedural Preparation and Support

Our recreational therapists work as a multidisciplinary team from departments in the Burn Center, Psychiatry, Oncology, Pediatrics, and Rehabilitation Center.

Child Life Services

Child life is a valued aspect of the care provided to children receiving inpatient or outpatient treatment in the N.C Children’s Hospital. Services are provided to patients on each of the inpatient pediatric units, the Hematology and Oncology Clinic and other pediatric areas.

Based upon an individualized assessment, Child Life specialists provide treatment services including:

  • Relaxation and stress pain management interventions
  • Procedural preparation
  • Procedural support to assist patients’ coping and compliance during procedures
  • Emotional self-regulation skills
  • Therapeutic play
  • Family support
  • Medication compliance

Child Life Facilities

Child Life Specialists use the Sigma Sigma Sigma Foundation's Robbie Page Play Atrium, the Jason Clark Teen Activities Center and the Charles Goren Music Room to provide a non-threatening and normalized environment that enhances emotional expression, physical activity, social interaction, adjustment to hospitalization and healing through play.

Visit the Pediatric Recreational and Child Life Therapy page for more information.

Burn Center

Recreational therapists at the Burn Center provide treatment services to adult and pediatric patients in the N.C Jaycee Burn Center.

The application of specific treatment interventions is based upon the analysis of an individual’s assessment and may include:

  • Reality orientation
  • Psychosocial support
  • Motor skills
  • Stress and relaxation management training
  • Discharge planning
  • Social skills adjustment
  • Emotional self-regulation and support
  • Procedural preparation
  • Developmental stimulation
  • Adjustment to health care encounters


Recreational therapy is an important part of the treatment regimen provided to both children and adults for psychiatric illnesses in the N.C Neurosciences Hospital. Patients are treated on an individual basis, in small unit-based groups, or in off-unit groups.

Recreational Therapy Interventions for Children and Adolescents

  • Emotional self-regulation skills
  • Relaxation training
  • Therapeutic play
  • Coping skills
  • Movement and exercise
  • Anger management
  • Wellness
  • Exercise
  • Therapeutic outings
  • Expressive arts groups
  • Emotional self-regulation skills
  • Relaxation training
  • Stress management
  • Anger management
  • Leisure education

Recreational Therapy Interventions for Adults

  • Stress management
  • Therapeutic outings for partial hospitalization program
  • Exercise
  • Coping skills
  • Discharge planning
  • Emotional self-regulation skills
  • Leisure education
  • Relaxation training


Recreational therapists for the N.C. Cancer Hospital provide treatment services for oncology patients based upon physician's orders, individualized assessment and treatment plan. Emphasis is placed on the clinical benefits of physical activity/exercise during phases of treatment.

Other interventions used include:

  • Relaxation training
  • Coping skills
  • Stress management
  • Discharge planning to optimize successful return to the home environment
  • Emotional self-regulation skills
  • Exercise
  • Procedural support

Clinical Education

The Department of Recreational Therapy offers a minimum of fourteen-week internships to students specializing in therapeutic recreation or recreational therapy at affiliated colleges and universities. The purpose of the internship program is to provide qualified students with the clinical education experiences that develop practice competencies of entry level careers. For more information, visit Clinical Education.


  • Psychiatry (Adult, Child, and Adolescent, and Eating Disorders)
  • Rehabilitation (Inpatient)
  • Oncology Services (Adult and Child)

Important Dates

  • Fellowship applications for the 2016-2017 year are due April 1, 2016
  • Spring internships for 2016 are due September 1, 2015

Contact Information

Rehabilitation Therapies
Kristel Maes,DPT
Center Coordinator of Clinical Education

Speech Therapy
Terra’ Wiggins Bellavance, MA/CCC-SLP
Adult Acute Care Speech-Language Pathologist

Recreational Therapy and Child Life
Arlene Marley, Administrative Specialist

Learn More

Call 984-974-2301 to learn about Recreational Therapy and Child Life at the UNC Medical Center.

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