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“Diversional therapy appealed to me because it’s a great way to bring fun and enjoyment into people’s lives,” says Emily Morton, a year 12 student at Cambridge High School. She discovered this unique and niche career possibility through Careerforce’s Gateway programme and the associated work placement at Lifecare Cambridge Rest Home and Hospital.

“I worked alongside the Diversional Therapist at Lifecare. I started assisting her then after a few weeks, I was allowed to run my own activities and games, getting a chance to see what it would be like to work as a Diversional Therapist.”

President of the New Zealand Society of Diversional and Recreation Therapists (NZSDRT), Orquidea Tamayo Mortera, says Diversional and Recreational Therapists (DRT’s) can support people to keep their minds engaged to achieve positive health outcomes. “DRT’s have for many years, been working with vulnerable populations by creating plans and programmes that provide meaning and purpose through therapeutic recreation. We are living in times where people with these skills are fundamental to the New Zealand health care system. DRT’s have a unique set of skills that include the ability to foster a sense of belonging. They support people to re-focus on those things that are important to us as humans.”

What is important she says, is making connections. “The lack of human connections can lead to stress, anxiety, depression and many other health problems,” explains Orquidea.

A young person who describes herself as social, friendly, motivated and determined to achieve, Emily found this career possibility to be a good fit for her. She appreciates the opportunity that the Careerforce Gateway programme and her work placement gave her, and that the experience helped her understand more about the job.

Emily running an activity with residents at Lifecare Cambridge

“I went to Lifecare Cambridge every Friday and went from assisting activities to running activities independently and suggesting activities we were going to do. I found it fun and I liked how I got to see the residents all have fun as well.”

NZSDRT encourages young people to consider choosing this career pathway. “It’s career with infinite opportunities for them,” says Orquidea.

It’s a very rewarding career says Orquidea, “A woman that I once worked with told me, ‘the physiotherapist helped me to gain strength to get out of bed, the occupational therapist helped me how to get out of bed, but the recreational therapist gave me a reason to get out of bed.”

Diversional therapists practice in many areas of the community including public and private hospitals, aged residential care facilities, rehabilitation centres, hostels, community centres, youth centres, schools and early childhood centres.

Young people are able to make difference in peoples’ lives with this career. It’s also a pathway to many other rewarding and secure careers across the health and wellbeing sector.

For more information about Careerforce’s Gateway programme, visit the Careerforce website: www.careerforce.org.nz/high-schools/for-schools/