Aquatic activity and emotional experience in adults with severe mental illness


  • Alysha A. Walter, MS, CTRS
  • Bryan P. McCormick, PhD, CTRS



severe mental illness, recreational therapy, aquatic activity, positive and negative emotions


This study examined the relationship of aquatic activity to positive and negative emotion in individuals with a severe mental illness (SMI). Individuals with SMI have been found to experience decreased positive emotions and higher negative emotions as compared to controls. It was hypothesized that aquatic activity participation would be associated with greater positive emotion and lower negative emotion post participation. Eighteen participants with a severe mental illness were recruited from a community mental health center. The study employed a pre-post design with a structured aquatic activity designed for moderate physical exertion. Participants demonstrated statistically significant increase in positive emotion and decrease in negative emotion pre to post activity. The findings of this study provide support for the potential effect of aquatic activities in psychiatric rehabilitation.

Author Biographies

Alysha A. Walter, MS, CTRS

Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina.

Bryan P. McCormick, PhD, CTRS

Department of Recreation, Park & Tourism Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.


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How to Cite

Walter, MS, CTRS, A. A., & McCormick, PhD, CTRS, B. P. (2014). Aquatic activity and emotional experience in adults with severe mental illness. American Journal of Recreation Therapy, 13(3), 7–12.




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