Activities directors are essential staff members in education, health, and human services programs. The activities they develop and oversee can make a difference for individuals facing emotional and mental challenges, physical disabilities, chronic health conditions, or the natural course of aging. In a behavioral health facility, the activities director’s work can complement the therapy and medical interventions that clinicians provide.
How Activities Directors Help Those Recovering from Addiction
When an individual checks into a rehab program, be it for drug or alcohol addiction, or a mental health condition, they typically receive a treatment plan that includes more than detox and/or therapy. Often, leisure and recreational activities are also on the schedule. That is because having fun or meaningful outlets or hobbies can help ease the transition into life after rehab and strengthen long-term recovery.
Learning to enjoy these activities starts in rehab with the help of an activities director. An activities director can enhance the recovery program experience and help patients rediscover the joy that hobbies, physical activity, and socialization can bring.
What Are the Roles and Duties of Activities Directors?
Activities directors collaborate with clinical staff and administrators of rehab programs to plan events that support the work of therapists and medical staff. While the activities director does not act as a therapist, the activities they plan and implement can be therapeutic. Crafts, community outings, and walks can be fun and relaxing, while activities such as playing volleyball or exercising can improve physical health. An activities director’s role is to ensure that individuals have ongoing opportunities to participate in leisure and recreational activities that help them thrive.
Activities Director vs. Recreational Therapist
In some rehab facilities, a recreational therapist may fulfill the role of an activities director, but the two jobs are actually not the same. The activities prescribed by a recreational therapist help individuals deal with anxiety, stress, depression, and other issues. Although participants engage in leisure and social activities under the supervision of a recreational therapist, the therapist’s role includes observing and documenting the impact of participation on the individual’s clinical progress. For example, the withdrawn individual who has difficulty engaging with peers may feel more connected with others after participating in community outings and onsite events that a recreation therapist implements to increase social interaction.
Is There a Certification for This Job?
Activities directors can become certified by sitting for the National Activities Director Certification Exam administered by the National Certification Council for Activities Professionals. The organization also provides information about training to become an activities director. At a minimum, an aspiring activities director needs a high school diploma or equivalent. However, some in the role have two or four-year degrees and have completed courses in leisure and recreation, human development, and psychology.
Some training programs designed specifically for activities directors focus on the duties of individuals who work in long-term care facilities. Training includes person-centered activity planning and working with individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s. However, skilled activities directors can work in any environment where individuals benefit from leisure programs that promote socialization, self-confidence, and improved health.
Facilities may require that an activities director complete a state-approved continuing education program to prepare for the role or improve their skills. Community colleges and professional organizations affiliated with the field offer classroom or online training programs for aspiring activities directors. In many cases, students can complete a one-year certificate program, which may include an agency internship or practicum to gain hands-on experience. Some schools offer an Associate Degree in Leisure and Recreation or Human Services.
What Role Can You Seek After Being an Activities Director?
An activities director is typically an entry-level position. Still, the experience and skills an individual can gain may position them for higher-level roles in health care or human services. Working with patients going through recovery requires good communication skills, compassion, and collaboration with other facility staff. Within a rehabilitation facility, an activities director may develop skills to work in an intake capacity, explaining the rehabilitation program to prospective patients and gathering information necessary for admission.
An activities director’s planning and project management experience may prepare them to work as an event coordinator, volunteer coordinator, or similar role.
Many community senior centers have intensive and highly enriched activity-based programs for older adults. The skills and responsibilities required of an activities director in these settings could qualify them for a future career as the director of one of these retirement facilities. They may also choose to pursue a nursing degree or a master’s in counseling or social work and become a licensed mental health professional.
What Is the Day-to-Day Routine Like for This Position?
The activities director must have good communication skills, because they often give directions to enable participants to engage in activities correctly and safely. Activities directors must often encourage individuals to participate, so being excited about the activities they promote is essential. Activities directors often collaborate with other staff to carry out planned activities.
Behavioral health technicians or other program assistants may assist with behavioral health or rehab facility activities. The activities director may also request the help of other staff. For example, a facility’s dietitian may talk about healthy eating or a human resources professional may conduct mock interviews with those seeking jobs after returning to the community.
The activities director is a hands-on position, so they must be able to set up for an event, ensure a safe environment, modify activities based on the characteristics and needs of the participants, and be willing to participate in activities. The activities director should understand how to resolve conflicts and maintain confidentiality.
Suppose the facility permits guest presenters to come in. In that case, an activities director does not leave a presenter alone with clients or patients; nor should they get individuals started with activities such as making crafts and leave them unattended. Activities directors are responsible for monitoring and supervising activities from start to finish.
Is an Activities Director Position a Good Career?
An activities director position can be good for you if you want to work in behavioral health but are not sure whether you are ready for a clinical role. You can still make a positive and significant impact on the health and wellbeing of others. This job may be rewarding if you enjoy helping individuals achieve their goals and/or a better quality of life.
What Must Activities Directors Enjoy to be Successful?
An activities director can be an excellent job for creative individuals who like inspiring others. The fact that the role is fun and promotes socialization and wellness in entertaining ways makes it a perfect choice for a creative individual who enjoys planning, organizing, and leading activities or events.
What Is the Job Outlook for Activities Directors?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists this occupation under the category of “recreational workers.” Employees under this category may work in nursing and residential care facilities, youth programs, and similar environments.
Ample opportunities exist for individuals seeking an activities director role. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook is positive, 10 percent faster than the average growth. For people who find fulfillment and joy in encouraging individuals to participate in activities that promote personal enrichment and socialization, an activities director position is worth pursuing.