In 1953 the University of North Carolina established the first regional, annual forum on therapeutic recreation: The Southern Regional Institute on Recreation in Hospitals. Throughout the fifties and sixties, this forum nurtured the young profession by bringing together leaders in medicine, recreation, education, and recreational therapy for lively debate of theory and practice. At the close of the sixties, the Institute was discontinued at Chapel Hill and its founders looked to the Southern Regional Conference of the National Recreation and Park Association to integrate therapeutic recreation topics into the annual conference.

Meanwhile, regional conferences that focused entirely on therapeutic recreation content were being developed elsewhere in the country. In 1971 the Midwest Symposium was established followed, not long after, by Horizons West Therapeutic Recreation Symposium, the New England Therapeutic Recreation Symposium, and the Mideastern Therapeutic Recreation Symposium.

As information continued to expand with the rapidly developing profession, several leaders attempted to reinstate a therapeutic recreation forum in the Southeast. Upon receiving requests from NRPA to refrain from sponsoring a separate conference, these efforts were delayed until 1980 when Florida State University hosted the Southeast Symposium on Therapeutic Recreation and Leisure Education. For the next two years the conference was independently sponsored, first by the University of Georgia (held in Atlanta) and then by Clemson University.

In 1981 a group of practitioners and educators, representing each state in the Southern Region of NRPA, were invited to form a steering committee to “ensure the orderly continuation of the symposium and to address regional concerns regarding the conference.” That group met for the first time in October, 1981, at the NRPA Congress in Minneapolis. Under the guidance of its first chair, Ray E. West, the group began to study proposals for the structure of the coordination body and the role it might best play in furthering the symposium. The group met again at the 1981 Symposium as the Board of Directors. Since its formation, the Board has developed an Operations Manual to serve as a guide for Symposium sponsors and has designated sponsoring agencies for each subsequent symposium.

On December 17, 1984, thanks to the diligent efforts of William Touchstone, the Bylaws of the Board were accepted by the State of North Carolina and the group officially became the Southeast Therapeutic Recreation Symposium, Incorporated. As a nonprofit organization, the Board’s purpose is to assure continuity of management and to render assistance in implementing the symposium as a professional education and development service to therapeutic recreation professionals. Since this time, the Board of Directors has continued to sponsor the Southeast Therapeutic Recreation Symposium with a variety of hosts from states in the Southeast. Today the Symposium continues to provide an excellent professional development experience for recreational therapy professionals.

On March 2, 2007 the Board of Directors of the Southeast Therapeutic Recreation Symposium voted unanimously to approve changing the name of the organization and the symposium to the Southeast Recreational Therapy Symposium (SRTS). It was felt that since most therapeutic recreation specialists and recreational therapists are employed in the provision of recreational therapy treatment services the focus and name of the organization and the symposium should reflect the focus on recreational therapy treatment services. After 25 years of service to the profession as the Southeast Therapeutic Recreation Symposium, the Board of Directors expresses pride in entering the next decade as the Southeast Recreational Therapy Symposium (SRTS), with a focus on the future of recreational therapy treatment services and a respect for our historical roots. SRTS will continue to provide an excellent continuing education experience, at a reasonable cost, for those who provide recreational therapy treatment services.