PLEASE NOTE: Job profile content may reflect pre-COVID-19 conditions.

Diversional Therapist

Kaihaumanu Rēhia

Alternative titles for this job

Diversional therapists plan and run recreation programmes that enhance the emotional, social and physical wellbeing of individuals.


New diversional therapists usually earn

$23-$26 per hour

Diversional therapists usually earn

$27-$40 per hour

Source: NZSDRT, 2021.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a diversional therapist are good due to growing demand.


Pay for diversional therapists varies depending on experience, qualifications, registration and responsibilities.

  • New diversional therapists with relevant experience, such as community work, but no specific qualifications usually earn between $22.75 to $26 an hour.
  • Newly qualified diversional therapists usually earn $27.
  • Qualified and registered diversional therapists usually earn $28 to $30.
  • Diversional therapists in managerial roles can earn between $30 and $40 or more.

Source: NZ Society of Diversional Registered Therapists, 2021.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Diversional therapists may do some or all of the following:

  • plan recreational programmes and events
  • encourage participation and enjoyment in activities and events
  • assess and document participants' progress
  • discuss participants' progress with medical and other professionals, and families.

Skills and knowledge

Diversional therapists need to have knowledge of:

  • how to plan and run recreational therapy activities for groups and individuals
  • art and craft techniques
  • sporting and cultural activities
  • first aid.

Working conditions

Diversional therapists:

  • do shift work, which can include evenings and weekends
  • may work in rest homes, community centres, schools, youth centres or early childhood centres.

What's the job really like?

Orquidea Tamayo Mortera

Orquidea Tamayo Mortera

Registered Diversional Therapist

Why did you become a diversional therapist?

"I started as a diversional therapist working with people who had mental health illnesses and intellectual disabilities. I realised that when people behaved in a challenging way, it was usually because they weren't being provided with the right support to engage them.

"Now I mainly work in aged care, but I still do recreational therapy with other vulnerable groups.

"When you get to know the person you're supporting, and their life story, you can develop a unique programme to meet their needs."

What’s a typical day like for you?

"We usually have a group programme planned for the morning. For example, we might do body percussion, which enhances people’s brains with movement and music.

"In the afternoon, we usually meet with clients one on one. We spend 10 to 15 minutes with each of them.

"Depending on what sector you’re in, some of the people you’re working with may have died the night before. So you have to get over the grief and keep smiling to support others who need it."

What’s the most enjoyable part of being a diversional therapist?

"The best part of the role is seeing the effects on clients’ wellbeing when people assume that nothing can be done, except medical intervention.

"For example, when people know that someone has dementia, they think that person won't be able to enjoy anything. But when you offer them a therapeutic intervention that meets their needs, you can see them laughing – it’s kind of like waking up their abilities, and proving people wrong."

Entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements to become a diversional therapist. However, to become a registered diversional therapist you need to complete a New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing – Social and Community Services (Level 4).

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.

Secondary education

No specific secondary education is required for this job, but English, health education, music, dance and drama, physical education, and painting, sculpture, photography and printmaking are useful.

Personal requirements

Diversional therapists need to be:

  • patient
  • enthusiastic
  • caring and respectful
  • good communicators
  • practical
  • able to motivate others
  • able to work well in a team.

Useful experience

Useful experience for diversional therapists includes work with the elderly, people with disabilities and children.

Physical requirements

Diversional therapists need to have a good level of fitness and must be reasonably strong, as they may need to help carry or move people.


Diversional therapists can choose to register with the New Zealand Society of Diversional Recreational Therapists.

Find out more about training

0800 277 486 - -
New Zealand Society of Diversional Recreational Therapists
027 475 5950 - -
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Demand for diversional therapists growing

Demand for diversional therapists' services is growing due to the:

  • ageing population, which means more people in rest homes and hospitals
  • increasing number of people with disabilities in supported living.

According to the Census, the number of diversional therapists in New Zealand rose from 1,008 in 2013 to 1,608 in 2018.

Registration boosts chances of getting diversional therapy work

Becoming a registered diversional therapist can increase your chances of finding work as it means you can prove you have at least 3,000 hours of experience, and that you follow a code of ethics.

Types of employers varied

Most diversional therapists work in rest homes and hospitals, but some also work for:

  • youth and community centres
  • agencies that support people with disabilities
  • childcare centres.


  • New Zealand Aged Care Association website, accessed September 2020, (
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
  • Tamayo Mortera, O, registered diversional therapist and president, New Zealand Society of Diversional Registered Therapists, interview, September 2020.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Diversional therapists may progress to managerial roles, including leading recreation teams at rest homes and hospitals.

With further training, they may become occupational therapists.

Diversional therapists may specialise in:

  • art therapy
  • music therapy
  • play.
A diversional therapist helping a child with digital exercises on a tablet

Diversional therapists plan recreational programmes that improve clients' wellbeing

Last updated 10 October 2022