Helping Clients Maintain Sobriety While Having Fun

MIDDLETOWN – Daniel Schiavo knows how vital relaxation is for his clients. Schiavo is a Recreation Therapist at Regional Economic Community Action program’s TRUST Center clinic where he guides clients in recovery from substance use disorder toward safe and productive recreational activities.

In 1984 the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) declared the second week of July as National Therapeutic Recreation Week and celebrates therapists who facilitate community reintegration, organize adapted sports, and help people develop social networking strategies.

Schiavo’s work focuses on increasing his clients’ level of functioning and independence. He runs three groups at the center. Living in Balance utilizes leisure education to help clients find things to do that are healthy and sober. “A lot of recreation is social and many clients come to us without healthy outlets,” said Schiavo. “Running or other exercise as well as free or low-cost community events help people stay active and social.” In the Peer Recovery Group members support each other with feedback and suggestions for what works at social situations such as parties and gatherings. Schiavo organizes weekly group trips to the Middletown YMCA during which clients exercise and volunteer. They take advantage of cardio equipment, weights, swimming, or volunteer cleaning equipment and maintaining grounds.

While limited transportation is a common issue his clients face, technology brings opportunities that simply didn’t exist until now. Home game consoles like Nintendo Wii bring workouts into the home and users can easily choose exercises that adapt to a seated position. “The internet is filled with performances and speakers,” said Schiavo. “Museums all over the world offer virtual tours which are great for people without transportation or with limited mobility.”

Schiavo starts his work by researching free or low-cost activities within walking distance of the Middletown clinic and connects clients with opportunities. “There are bands on Railroad Green, free Zumba at Fancher-Davidge Park, free or low-cost passes to the YMCA, and the Heritage Trail runs through Orange County. There’s something for everyone and these activities help people connect with the community and develop interpersonal skills,” said Schiavo.

Schiavo has a M.S. in Recreation Management and is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS), an internationally-known credential of the National Council on Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). He is also a licensed elementary and special education teacher in New Jersey.

His future plans for clients at the TRUST Center include an on-site garden, a project he implemented during his internship at Good Samaritan Lutheran Home, a senior community in Delmar, New York. The approx 10-foot wide garden was built by volunteers for residents who live with dementia, Parkinson’s, and M.S.

“Recreation is such a vital part of wellness,” said Schiavo. “What we do for fun in our free time is central to wellbeing. My work is rewarding because clients have so many take-aways. Little by little I’m taking people from where they are to where they want to go”

About the Program
RECAP’s TRUST (Through Recovery U Stand Tall) Center is an OASAS-licensed treatment facility specializing in chemical dependency treatment. Staff help clients in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction through a variety of therapies focusing on counseling, health testing, smoking cessation, relationships, and more.

About the Agency
RECAP’s services help people living in poverty in Orange County and the surrounding areas. We work with our community’s most vulnerable populations including seniors, children, veterans, the homeless and the hungry, those living with HIV/AIDS, victims of domestic violence, people battling substance use disorder and anyone struggling to make ends meet.
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