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Student Experiences

Big Steps Forward

Brandon Cain, a therapeutic recreation alum, may not know exactly what the future will prescribe from here on out. What he does know is that wherever life leads him, he yearns to serve other people—just as he has this past summer.

Prior to graduating last August, Cain interned alongside fellow TR classmate Jared Brown at Steps Recovery, a drug rehabilitation treatment center in Payson, Utah. The inpatient facility utilizes the 12-step recovery program to assist clients who wrestle with substance abuse.

Brandon Cain cycles with clients at the National Abilities Center in Park City.
Brandon Cain cycles with clients at the National Abilities Center in Park City.

“It’s a humbling place to be,” says Cain. “Even though I may not struggle with drugs or alcohol, we’re all human, and we can relate to being human.”

Among other responsibilities, Cain and Brown were tasked with helping clients learn how to have “sober fun.” Each week, Cain, Brown, and other members of the recreation team would take clients into the community to participate in integrated activities, including paddleboarding, sailing, rock climbing, and making pottery. Through wholesome recreation, the team helped clients find or rediscover a stockpile of enjoyable activities to take the place of their addiction.

As they worked at the center, the two alumni found they were able to draw upon concepts they’d learned in their therapeutic recreation classes, particularly pertaining to program and client evaluation.

“That was a big reason why I wanted to do my internship at Steps,” says Brown, whose capstone project involved helping the center revamp its evaluation process. “Center officials were trying to find outcomes from their assessments and doing a lot of research to find which ones work best for these clients. They do an incredible job of applying all the principles we were taught in our classes.”

Jared Brown spins a potter's wheel with patients as part of a weekly community activity.
Jared Brown spins a potter's wheel with patients as part of a weekly community activity.

Brown worked with the center’s recreation therapist to analyze patient outcome trends over time and identify components of the assessment process that were lacking. Two BYU faculty members—social work professor Cory Dennis and Neil Lundberg, the Experience Management and Design Department chair—also helped Brown develop a pilot program to aid in the analysis.

While Brown worked on program appraisal, Cain endeavored to better facilitate its implementation. His capstone project consisted of updating and organizing the center’s plan of operation, which describes the protocols for various activities and their associated therapeutic theories. With these protocols, new employees will be able to begin working with clear purpose and instructions, allowing them to better focus on the patients’ individual needs. Setting goals with clients in accordance with these prepared plans allowed Cain to closely witness the personal growth many of them experienced.

“No one’s perfect,” he says, reflecting upon his personal interactions with the patients. “It would be so much easier if we all were more humble, accepted our weaknesses, and sought help.”

While both graduates are in the process of learning what comes next on their career tracks, Cain and Brown concur that their internship was helpful in elucidating an appealing field in therapeutic recreation. Though not clients themselves, the alums found Steps Recovery to be an integral step in their own processes of self-discovery.


Writer: Afton Izu