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Theoretical Foundations & Service Delivery:

The Leisure and Well-Being Model

Sasha Gordon

University of Utah

RECTH 3360

Sandy Negley

September 28, 2016


The Leisure and Well-Being Model

The Leisure and Well-Being Model (LWM) represents a shift in thinking and delivery of

services that has been taking place within the health and human services field: a strengths-based

focus rather than trying to reduce problems or deficits. Carruthers and Hood (2007) explain,

The Leisure and Well-being Model, at the most fundamental level, is based on the recognition

that the resolution of problems does not, in itself, result in increased positive affect or personal

growth, both of which are central dimensions of well-being (p. 280).

Well-being is the distal goal of therapeutic recreation (TR) within this model. This is

defined as a state of successful, satisfying, and productive engagement with ones life and the

realization of ones full physical, cognitive, and social-emotional potential (p. 279). While the

authors recognize that there are many dimensions that influence well-being, the two that are the

main focus of TR practices are: (a) increasing positive emotion, affect, and experience on a

daily basis, and (b) the cultivation and expression of ones full potential, including strengths,

capacities, and assets (Carruthers & Hood, 2007, p. 280).

To accomplish these two dimensions of well-being, the model incorporates two main

mechanisms within TR service delivery. These are developing resources and enhancing leisure

experiences. Through these two interrelated proximal goals, recreational therapists are able to

help clients work toward personal development and well-being.

Developing Resources

The authors explain that recreational therapists can help clients develop the necessary

resources for well-being through leisure activities, interventions and empowering the clients with

a strengths-based approach. Resources are defined as the internal and external assets, strengths,

and context upon which one can draw in order to create a satisfying, enjoyable and productive

life (Carruthers & Hood, 2007, p. 288). The LWM divides these resources into five categories

that are interrelated and overlap. These categories are psychological, social, cognitive, physical,

and environmental resources. The resources within these categories were chosen based on their

applicability to TR services, and are directly linked to how leisure influences the development of

these resources (Hood & Carruthers, 2007).

Some of the psychological resources the model includes are capacity for happiness,

emotion regulation, self-awareness, self-determination, competence, optimism, and sense of

meaning (Hood & Carruthers, 2007, p. 303). The LWM suggests that not only are these

psychological resources necessary in reaching a state of well-being, but they all can be

influenced and developed through various leisure involvement.

The next category of resources the model focuses on is cognitive resources. These

resources are important in cultivating well-being, but they also impact daily living. Additionally,

while it is true that leisure activities can improve cognitive resources, the opposite is also true

cognitive resources can improve leisure participation. Some of the resources included in this

category are the ability to attend, concentrate, follow directions, remember important things, set

goals, and solve problems (Hood & Carruthers, 2007, p. 305). An important consideration to

remember with this category is that it is possible for individuals to experience well-being even

with limited cognitive resources.

Within the LWM, social resources are considered to be those capacities and strengths

that lie within the individual and that allow for meaningful social engagement (Hood &

Carruthers, 2007, p. 306). Some of the resources that are included within this category are things

such as communication skills, relationship skills, and social confidence. Because many leisure

activities are often social in nature, leisure can be a great medium for developing these resources.

The relationship between physical resources (physical health and fitness, mobility,

energy, etc.) and well-being is similar to that of cognitive resources: it is a reciprocal relationship

where both parts influence and benefit the other. However, it is possible for people to enjoy a

state of well-being while having some restrictions to their physical abilities (Hood & Carruthers,

2007, p. 307).

Finally, environmental resources are those things that lie outside of the individual and

impact all of the other resources. They include things such as social connectedness and social

networks as well as engagement and involvement within the community. People with illnesses

and disabilities often feel isolated from their communities, but have a desire to build

relationships and be engaged in their community (Hood & Carruthers, 2007, p. 309). Leisure

activities can serve as a medium for them to do so.

All of these resource categories could be used in various TR interventions, largely

because leisure and recreation can be used to help develop each of them. Within TR services, the

practitioner needs to decide which resources their specific clients need to develop, and focus on

those rather than trying to develop all of them.

Enhancing Leisure Experience

According to Hood and Carruthers (2007), the leisure experience has a central and

crucial role to play in the development of resources and, ultimately, the well-being of clients

(p.310). Not only that, but they also go on to explain that there are different types of leisure that

all have different effects on developing resources and well-being. Additionally, there are two

components of the leisure experience that are important: doing leisure and the quality of the

leisure experience (Hood & Carruthers, 2007). The LWM defines five types of leisure that can

enhance and improve the experience: savoring leisure, authentic leisure, leisure gratifications,

mindful leisure, and virtuous leisure.

The first type, savoring leisure, is paying attention to the positive aspects of, and

emotions associated with, leisure involvement and purposefully seeking leisure experiences that

give rise to positive emotions (Hood & Carruthers, 2007, p. 311). The idea is that optimal

leisure experiences lead to positive emotions, which then lead to the development of resources

and well-being. The authors explain that there are three strategies that can be used in TR services

to increase the clients savoring in leisure: being fully present during the activities, purposeful

selection of leisure activities, and modifying the experiences to maximize the positive emotions

(Hood & Carruthers, 2007).

Authentic leisure is the purposive selection of leisure involvement that is reflective of

essential aspects of the self (Hood & Carruthers, 2007, p. 312). In order for leisure experiences

to be most authentic, it is important that they allow for the clients to explore their interests and

abilities. Within TR, it is important that the therapist supports the client in discovering their

interests and strengths, and how they can use those in meaningful leisure experiences.

Leisure gratifications are experiences that are both enjoyable and challenging. This type

of leisure helps clients experience flow, as they provide the right level of challengeenough that

they must concentrate and be focused on the experience, but not too difficult that it is not

enjoyable. The therapists role is to help the clients monitor their own abilities, and create flow

experiences for themselves (Hood & Carruthers, 2007).

Mindful leisure experiences are those that facilitate full engagement and awareness in the

present experience. Research shows that the more someone is able to be fully engaged in present

experiences, the more they will be able to do so in future experiences, and they will be better

able to deal with the stressors of life. As such, it is important for TR services to help the clients

learn strategies and skills that help them improve mindfulness through experiences such as

meditation, breathing techniques, relaxation, yoga, etc. (Hood & Carruthers, 2007).

The final type of leisure included in the model is virtuous leisure. This is based on the

idea of building a life around ones strengths and using them to contribute to the world (Hood

& Carruthers, 2007, p. 316). Essentially, it is the use of ones strengths and abilities in service to

something outside of the self. Volunteering is one example of this type of leisure. The therapists

job is to help the clients understand their strengths that could be used to serve others, and to give

them contexts and opportunities to engage in these types of experiences.

Theoretical Underpinnings

The LWM was developed using many theories from several disciplines. Hood and

Carruthers (2007) explain that the model is grounded in the literature of psychology, strengths-

based practice, leisure theory, and human development (p. 299). Many of the components of the

model are based on concepts from positive psychology. For example, the impact of leisure on

happiness has been greatly supported by the literature in positive psychology (Carruthers &

Hood, 2007, p. 284). Additionally, many of the ideas of the strengths-based approach to TR arise

from work done within this field.

The models definition of well-being and the two dimensions it focuses on comes from

the literature of many disciplines. For example, the idea of resources was taken from social

psychology and psychology, strengths have been written about in the social work literature, and

protective factors comes from social work (especially resiliency theory).

Some of the more specific theories the model draws from are things such as leisure

behavior theory, self-efficacy, resiliency, the theory of positive emotion, and flow theory. This is

not a comprehensive list, but gives a basic idea of some of the types of theories that the authors

drew from in creating this model.

Service Delivery

The LWM sets a firm foundation for TR practice and service delivery. The most

important component of the model is the strengths-based focus. When using this model, the

therapist focuses on the abilities of the client and uses those to help facilitate the development of

additional resources and meaningful leisure experiences. This is effective because a focus on

capacity creates empowerment and social agency and allows clients to define for themselves

their desired goals and aspirations, and strategies to reach those goals (Carruthers & Hood,

2007, p. 291). Thus, the responsibility of the therapist in program design and delivery is to help

the clients reach their goals by helping them build and develop their resources and teach them

ways to enhance their leisure experience.

Another aspect of service delivery that is impacted by the LWM is the relationship it

encourages between the client and therapist. According to Carruthers and Hood (2007), The

LWM encourages a partnership relationship between clients and therapists, in which the therapist

encourages hope and inspires change, validates clients experiences, and supports clients to

mobilize their assets and capacities towards the desired end (p. 282). Because the TR services

within this model are based on cultivating the strengths of the client, the process is viewed as a

collaboration where each member is viewed as an expert in their respective area: in their lives

and the therapeutic process.

As mentioned in the description of the model, there are two major components of TR

service within the LWM: enhancing leisure experience and resource development. Each of these

impacts service delivery. For example, The component, Enhancing Leisure Experience, can be

used to modify the way that leisure education interventions are conceptualized and implemented

(p. 318). The different types of leisure identified in this component can help guide the therapist

in creating programs and interventions to meet the goals of the client. For instance, the therapist

might create a program that incorporates each of the types of leisure experiences, or choose only

the ones that are most relevant to the client and focus on providing those types of experiences.

Similarly, within the component of resource development, the clients might need help

developing specific resources to support those they already have. The authors also explain that

the therapists might want to focus primarily on those key resources that have been shown to

support the acquisition of additional resourcesautonomy, self-determination, competence,

optimism, self-awareness/acceptance/congruence, physical health, and others (Hood &

Carruthers, 2007, p. 318).

In essence, the LWM outlines important components of TR service delivery, but is broad

enough that it can be used with a variety of clients in a wide range of settings. Therapists are able

to use their professional knowledge and the goals of the clients to select the aspects of the model

that will be most beneficial.

Assessment Considerations

Using this model as a basis for service delivery, the recreational therapist would need to

assess the clients on several factors. First, it would be important to assess the current resources of

the client, and what areas they might need help developing. As the authors explain, Not all of

[the] resources would be addressed for any one client group; it is up to the professional expertise

of the TR practitioner to identify which resources align most closely with the goals and

aspirations of the clients served (Hood & Carruthers, 2007, p. 310). This could only be

determined through assessing the needs of the clients. It would also be helpful to identify the

current resources of the individual that might be helpful in developing others.

There are a couple of things that need to be assessed for the leisure experience aspect of

the model. It would be important for the recreational therapist to know what the clients leisure

strengths and interests are, as well as any barriers they might have with leisure experiences. This

would be helpful for multiple reasons. First of all, it would be helpful for the therapist to know

the interests of the client so leisure experiences could be planned that would be meaningful and

authentic. Additionally, it could be beneficial to see what types of leisure are being met in the

clients current leisure lifestyle, and which ones they might need help developing. Understanding

the barriers to leisure would help the therapist understand what the client needs to have

meaningful leisure experiences and reach a state of well-being.

Because this model takes a strengths-based approach to TR, it is important to assess and

understand the strengths and assets of the client. However, while the focus is not on reduction of

deficits or problems, it would still be helpful to understand any problems the client has, in order

to find ways to use their strengths to make the most of their abilities and resources. These might

be in any of the domains: physical, cognitive, social, emotion, etc.

Heritage Treatment Center

Heritage Treatment Center is a residential treatment center for adolescents that offers two

therapy programs: Peers Academy for adolescents on the autism spectrum, and Elevate Academy

for those struggling with emotional and behavioral issues that have been diagnosed with things

such as mood disorders.

The fundamental principle behind the treatment programs at Heritage is that meaningful,

lasting change comes from the inside out. Not from external incentives or techniques. Positive,

personal relationships are essential to facilitate internal change and healing (Heritage Treatment

Center, 2015). Additionally, the website explains that the center believe[s] in the strong

traditions and connecting points of family, education, health, social and emotional functioning,

relationships, spirituality, and life skills (Heritage Treatment Center, 2015).

Using these values and vision of the treatment center, the LWM provides a good

framework for TR services. Most importantly, the website for Heritage states, Where some see

deficiencies, our team sees untapped potential in each Heritage student. Our individualized focus

and treatment enables each student to discover their unique strengths and interests (Heritage

Treatment Center, 2015). They focus on the strengths and assets each student has, and use those

to help improve their lives. This fits with the strengths-based approach that is so fundamental to

the LWM.

Many of the resources included in the LWM match the goals of treatment at Heritage. For

example, emotion regulation as a psychological resource is one that is emphasized a great deal in

both treatment programs. The same is true with the social resources. Many of the adolescents at

Heritage struggle with interpersonal and communication skills. Through the LWM, the therapist

could provide leisure experiences to help improve these resources, which would hopefully

improve the lives of the students and lead them to a life of well-being. Environmental resources

are also highly emphasized in the treatment programsHeritage tries to get the students

involved in community service opportunities that allows them to participate in virtuous leisure

leisure done for the good of something larger than themselves.

These are just a few examples of how the LWM would fit very well within the context of

Heritage Treatment Center, and how the philosophy of the center matches the goals of this model

of TR service delivery.


Carruthers, C., & Hood, C.D. (2007). Building a life of meaning through therapeutic recreation:

The leisure and well-being model, part I. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 41(4), 276-


Heritage Treatment Center. (2015). Retrieved from

Hood, C.D., & Carruthers, C. (2007). Enhancing leisure experience and developing resources:

The leisure and well-being model, part II. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 41(4), 298-