minor: art therapy
Hometown: New City, NY
“STAC’s therapeutic recreation major really drew me in. Not a lot of schools that are as supportive and small as STAC have this major.”
When Erica Corey was a sophomore in college, she knew something wasn’t right. She was five hours from home at a school that was too big for her liking—a place where no one knew her name. But that wasn’t all. She was also majoring in a subject that didn’t fit her goals and interests.
She decided to come home to Rockland County and make things right. She transferred to St. Thomas Aquinas College—a decision that changed the course of her life—and enrolled in STAC’s therapeutic recreation major. She not only found her college, she found her calling.
Erica is now a therapeutic recreation specialist at New Jersey’s Kessler Institute, the nation's largest single rehabilitation hospital, where she works with patients with brain injuries. Part of her job is to assess patients’ cognitive levels and perform “cognitive retraining,” which consistsof memory tests and deductive reasoning exercises, among other activities and analyses. She also helps patients find recreational activities that suit their medical needs and personal interests.
“I have a patient who is blind and partially deaf, and I asked her if she wanted to go to a movie. A lot of people might ask why I would take her to a movie,” Erica explains. “But I took her to the movie, and she was able to hear the music and part of the storyline, and she thanked me repeatedly. She said no one ever thought to take her to a movie before. That, to me, is very gratifying.”
Ultimately, Erica would like to work with pediatric cancer patients. She says that although her job is challenging and can be emotional, optimism is the key to success.
“People ask me if my job is difficult, and I tell them it’s nothing compared to what my patients are going through,” Erica says. “Although their circumstances are tough, these patients are getting the care they need in the best possible place, and I’m there to make their day better. You can’t come in feeling sad, because then your patients feel sad, and you’re not helping them get better.”
She says the best part of her job is seeing patients achieve their goals and regain some normalcy in their lives.
“Patients often think they can’t get back to the activities they loved before their injury,” Erica says. “I teach them there are so many opportunities for people with disabilities that they don’t even know about. That’s rewarding.”