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Diversional Therapy “is a client centred practice [that] recognises that leisure and recreational experiences are the right of all individuals.”  Diversional Therapists promote the involvement in leisure, recreation and play by reducing barriers to their participation and providing opportunities where the individual may choose to participate. Ideally these recreational activities promote self-esteem and personal fulfillment, through an emphasis on holistic care; providing physical, psychological, social, intellectual and spiritual/cultural support.
Diversional Therapists work in a wide variety of settings and divert their client’s attention away from anxiety producing problems by incorporating leisure programs into their lifestyles.
The diversional therapist assists decision-making and participation when developing and managing recreational programmes. These are often quite diverse and can range from: · Games, outings, gardening, computers, gentle exercise, music, arts and crafts. · Individual emotional and social support · Sensory enrichment, activities like massage and aromatherapy, pet therapy · Discussion groups, education sessions like grooming, beauty care, cooking · Social, cultural and spiritual activities (Quality Care Training, 2003)
Diversional Therapy is not just about passing the time, about being entertainers or babysitters. For Diversional Therapy practitioners, as an unknown author once said "Recreation's purpose is not to kill time, but to make time live; not to keep people occupied, but to keep them refreshed; not to offer an escape from life, but to provide a discovery of life."
Becoming a Diversional Therapist
To become a diversional therapist you must complete a diploma or degree in diversional therapy or leisure and health studies and this course needs to be recognised by the Diversional Therapy Association of Australia. Entry to the degree courses usually requires completion of your HSC/ACT Year 12 with prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, chemistry or biology. The various universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information as requirements may change.
Leisure can provide clients with an opportunity to focus on what is important to them. This helps in dealing with non-leisure activities. It helps to relieve stress and boredom, something promoting not only emotional health but physical health as well as the other three domains of health; cognitive, spiritual and social. It also gives a feeling of control, something especially important to clients who have experienced a loss of freedom. It can improve communication skills and self-esteem. Through leisure, one can meet new people, learn new things and see a new outlook on life.
Physical Benefits can include:
Decrease in blood pressure Decrease in heart rate Increase in bone mass and strength Increase in lung capacity Reduction in incidence of diabetes Increase in muscle strength Increase in sense of well being Increase in flexibility, balance and coordination Improvement in immune system (Ayvazoglu, Ratliffe & Kozub, 2004; Academy of Leisure Sciences , n.d.).
Emotional Benefits can include:
• Happiness • Life satisfaction • Morale • Self-concept • Self-esteem • Perceived sense of freedom • Independence • Autonomy • Self-confidence • Leadership skills • Tolerance/Understanding • Problem solving skills (Mannell & Kleiber, 1997; The Academy of Leisure Sciences, n.d.).
Case Study: How can a diversional therapy program influence someone’s life?
When Edna Smith* came to the nursing home, and started in the Diversional Therapy programme, she was quiet and withdrawn. She did not want to participate in activities and was feeling depressed at her sudden loss of freedom.
Now, Edna is a bright bubbly lady who always has a joke to share or a song to sing. Because of the Diversional Therapist’s encouragement, she now regularly participates in leisure, and enjoys it. She is no longer depressed and when asked if she enjoys life, retorts with “Are you crackers? I love it!” She acknowledges that her slowly decreasing mobility makes things harder, but that the Diversional Therapy programme has certainly improved her quality of life.
But it doesn’t stop there:
Edna is regularly assessed and evaluated so her care is constantly evolving to fit her changing status.
For example, her impaired mobility and balance. In order for Edna to maintain confidence in her physical abilities the diversional therapists encourage her to attend the nursing home exercise programme at least three times a week for 30 minutes.
To overcome the problem of her having reduced opportunities for cognitive stimulation, the diversional therapists provide the opportunity for Edna to be involved in reminiscence groups at least once a week and as she is a keen Scrabbler, they see to it that she gets to flex her scrabble muscles as often as possible.
She goes to social events and concerts for an hour at least once a fortnight so her access to meaningful social interaction is increased.
The diversional therapy programme has definitely had a positive influence on Edna’s life and will continue to do so for as long as she is living at the nursing home.
- not her real name
A Client Centered Practice
Everyone is different; no one is the same as any other person. Therefore, everyone has different individual needs and it is part of the diversional therapist’s responsibility to recognise and strive to meet these needs. Clients must be empowered so that they involved in their own programme as much as possible.
The diversional therapy program seeks to be a client centered program by approaching each of the five dimensions of a person in these ways and more:
Physical - daily exercises, circuit classes and team sports like bowls and shuffleboard etc. Social – Happy hour, birthday parties, concerts, etc. Spiritual/ Cultural- Mass once a week, four different denominations’ church services every month, pastoral visits, etc. Intellectual- Weekly quizzes, computer club, etc. Psychological- Relaxation and meditation groups.
Considerations In Planning A diversional therapy Program
When planning the diversional therapy program, several aspects must be taken into consideration to determine an activity’s suitability. Time is one such aspect. Time is limited, because, for example, clients with dementia will generally have a shorter attention span. Therefore it is important that the activity will take up a suitable amount of time. It is important that the client mix is adequate. Sometimes it is important to have men only or women only events, and in addition, there can be (best avoided) personality clashes. In Nursing homes especially, there are budget limitations, and so restricted resources means that cost must be considered. There must be enough money for things like supplies, entertainment, gifts, prizes, new equip, etc. Obviously, the programme must be planned so clients will actually enjoy participating. This is done by taking into account client’s ability levels. Something too easy or too hard will not be stimulating, and therefore not so enjoyable.
Diversional Therapy in Aged Care Facilities
There’s heaps of statistics to back up the importance of diversional therapy too. The Donald Coburn Centre in Castle hill recently did a big study on the benefits of Diversional Therapy. diversional therapy was found to improve CV health greatly and there were heaps less falls, so increased mobility and co-ordination and agitation with both residents and staff. It reduced secondary disability and associated higher health care costs.
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