The truth about strengths-based practice: Not a new paradigm for recreational therapy—But an important one


  • David R. Austin, PhD, FDRT, FALS
  • Bryan P. McCormick, PhD, CTRS, FDRT, FALS



humanistic psychology, strengths approach, positive psychology, developmental approach


Although Heyne and Anderson have offered their strengths-based approach as a sea change in the practice of recreational therapy, there is compelling evidence that the strengths-based approach has existed within recreational therapy for some time. In fact, recreational therapists should take pride in being among the early adopters of the strengths-based approach. Recreational therapy’s foundation in humanistic psychology, and subsequently in positive psychology, has always provided an orientation to practice in which therapists were encouraged to focus on client strengths and resources. In addition, the authors argue that Heyne and Anderson’s exclusive focus on strengths, to the neglect of client problems and concerns, does not represent the entire spectrum served by recreational therapists. Further, Heyne and Anderson have inaccurately characterized recreational therapists as following a medical model, which emphasizes only client problems or health conditions. Further, they erroneously portray recreational therapists as exerting dominance over clients. This representation is simply not in keeping with practices in recreational therapy. The authors suggest that Heyne and Anderson should be applauded for bringing attention to the importance of recreational therapists focusing on using a strengths-based approach to assist clients to move toward the achievement of optimal functioning and well-being. In doing so, however, they have failed to acknowledge that recreational therapists work along the full range of human functioning that includes helping clients to alleviate problems at one end of the spectrum to the promotion of optimal functioning at the other end. The roles of alleviating client health problems and issues and the promoting of optimal functioning are dual roles that recreational therapists do and should take.

Author Biographies

David R. Austin, PhD, FDRT, FALS

Professor Emeritus, Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana

Bryan P. McCormick, PhD, CTRS, FDRT, FALS

Professor, Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.


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How to Cite

Austin, PhD, FDRT, FALS, D. R., & McCormick, PhD, CTRS, FDRT, FALS, B. P. (2016). The truth about strengths-based practice: Not a new paradigm for recreational therapy—But an important one. American Journal of Recreation Therapy, 15(3), 19–28.