In college, Scholl worked as an intern at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital and eventually became a full-time therapist after working across multiple Sharp hospitals per diem.
“I aspire to help others live a healthier, connected and fulfilling life, and this job allows me to do that,” she says. “I get the opportunity to inspire others to reconnect with enjoying life.”
Scholl hopes to empower people with mental health issues through recreational activities that can help improve physical, social, spiritual and emotional well-being.
What does a recreational therapist do?
Providing services 365 days a year to all seven inpatient units, the recreational therapists of Sharp Mesa Vista offer group and one-on-one sessions focused on wellness, creative expression, life skills, leisure education, self-esteem and more.
Scholl typically leads two to four groups each day, and chooses activities that focus on improving concentration, self-awareness, coping skills, goal setting and stress management.
In light of COVID-19 safety precautions, Sharp Mesa Vista has limited group sizes to encourage social distancing, allowing for more outdoor and one-on-one time. The recreation therapy team has also increased in-room treatment options, such as puzzles, reading materials, and art and craft packs.
How does recreation help improve mental health?
For patients dealing with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, therapeutic interventions — ranging from simple cognitive and physical exercises to activities that focus on self-reflection, time management and sober leisure awareness — can help manage symptoms.
Patients are also given the opportunity to practice social skills and improve their mood through fun activities such as karaoke, jewelry making, video game bowling and virtual tours.
“I’ll never forget the time a patient came up to me after a group, and with tears in her eyes, thanked me for showing her how to have fun again,” says Scholl. “It was a moment I continue to cherish.”
Integrating recreational therapy into your own life
“We all experience stress in life, but we do not always react to it in a way that is best for us,” Scholl says. “I have learned how to use recreational and leisure activities, as well as positive coping skills, to help me react to stress in a healthy way.”
Here are some activities Scholl uses at work and home.
- Guided stretching and exercise
“Staying active is a healthy way to relax and manage stress and anxiety,” says Scholl. “Often I incorporate meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, grounding techniques and deep breathing to show how mindfulness can support long-term wellness and recovery.”
Other therapeutic activities include nature walks, chair yoga, light weight training, dancing, hula-hooping, ping-pong and bocce ball.
- Practice your version of self-care
Not all self-care involves buying something new or treating yourself to chocolate. Find what helps you relieve stress in a healthy way. To relax after a long day at work, Scholl often listens to a podcast, goes surfing, cooks meals with a loved one or does yoga.
- Play games
Playing games can help any group with social connection, teamwork and motivation, while promoting cognitive skills. Sharp Mesa Vista recreational therapists have adapted games such as Scattergories by creating their own lists of health and wellness categories. Other games that have been adapted include Boggle, charades and Pictionary, to focus more on coping skills.
- Make social connections
“Life is all about relationships and connections. I have come to understand that when we are disconnected from people or things we are interested in, that’s when life often becomes more difficult,” says Scholl.
She recommends taking the initiative to contact a family member or friend to make future plans that you can look forward to. You can start your own game night, plan a day trip, cook a meal together over video chat or go for a walk together.