Posted: May 26, 2017
Patrick Henderson

When casting about for a career direction, Patrick Henderson knew he liked to have fun.

Now he has a care role in which he encourages his clients to re-gain the fun they used to have.

Patrick is a recreation therapist in GRH’s specialized mental health program at the Freeport Campus. He works closely with people recovering from a mental illness as they regain hobbies or activities they used to enjoy, or even try new activities.

Ironically, one of the better parts of Patrick’s job is when a client no longer needs him and can enjoy activities on their own. Patrick still enjoys keeping in touch with former clients as they move back to the community.

Patrick is also heavily involved in the Freeport community through teaching and committee work. He also chairs the annual Stomp out Stigma education event. It provides an opportunity to spot light mental health in a positive way, while encouraging like -minded community partners to showcase how they provide support to persons with lived experience.

How did you become a recreation therapist?

I knew that I liked to have fun and I knew that I liked to help people. I just had to find a career that would help satisfy both of these needs, that’s where I found the recreation and leisure diploma program at Fanshawe College.

After graduation I obtained employment in Hamilton working at a long term care facility. Upon securing a position at William Osler Health Centre, I was encouraged by my professional practice leader to advance my education by taking the therapeutic recreation program at Georgian College. And now I am a recreation therapist

Have you always worked in mental health?

Full time, yes, I started my working life in long term care on a part time basis, obtained a position with complex continuing care in Brampton also part time, secured a contract position with St. Joseph's Health Care London, from there I was hired as a full time recreation therapist with the GRH assertive community treatment team and moved into my current position in 2011.

How does recreation therapy in mental health differ from other environments?

Each environment possesses its own unique challenges and opportunities. I have great autonomy which provides me the luxury of meeting clients where they are at in their recovery journey.

At the heart of it, recreation therapy does not change a great deal from environment to environment; putting client goals and needs at the forefront of planning, goal development and shared recovery planning are the keys to success

What’s the most rewarding part of your work?

I try to work myself out a job on an individual basis! I like providing clients with the skills and confidence to take part in an activity they enjoy or a sport they used to play, or setting them up with a music teacher or reading group. No longer being needed by that person is a great feeling.

Also meeting up with past clients in the community who are doing well is also one of the best parts of my work. Each week my colleagues and I support clients to take part in a bowling group lead by volunteers and supported by the Self Help Alliance at Towne Bowl. This is a welcoming group of individuals who have created a healthy and supportive community.

How has recreation therapy changed, or how do you see it changing in the years ahead?

Recreation therapy is being seen more as an actual profession, with measure-able outcomes, assessment tools and a voice at the table during rounds and shared care planning, and less as time filler or the staff to keep people busy. With education and promotion, working as an interdisciplinary team the field of recreation therapy can only get stronger

How can people go about accessing a recreation therapist at the hospital?

In the specialized mental health program at our Freeport Campus, recreation therapists are assigned to each client’s doctor and their multi-disciplinary team. Each client on our unit has a recreation therapist who they can connect with at any point in their recovery journey

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