Nik Miller had an established life in Toledo. A Toledoan born and raised, he enjoyed the life he had created, and he did not want to miss out on the special memories to come with family and friends if he went farther from home.
When it came time for his college decision, Miller chose The University of Toledo to study recreational therapy, allowing him to add to his memories by creating new ones as a Rocket.
Miller chose recreational therapy, a field that allows him to make a difference in someone’s life. And with many other colleges not offering recreational therapy, UToledo stood out as a hidden gem.
Recreation therapists design and implement treatment programs and recreation services to help people with illnesses or disabling conditions live healthier and more satisfying independent lives.
“I think it is a therapy that is not talked about enough but will be implemented across many different settings soon,” Miller said. “It will be in high demand because of the wide variety of populations and diagnoses that we work with.”
Miller completed an internship at The University of Toledo Medical Center in the Senior Behavioral Health Program. He has gained direct experience with patients, leading three separate therapy groups throughout the day. His groups addressed topics such as coping skills, physical movement and creative expression. He also worked alongside other students and therapists to analyze a patient’s improvement throughout their treatment.
Miller’s experiences within the Senior Behavioral Health Program have boosted his confidence when working with patients and helped him develop important career and life skills such as multitasking, problem-solving, decision making, mindfulness and, most importantly, patience.
Stephanie Morrill, Miller’s clinical instructor, helped him grow as a professional, guiding him every day and teaching him the importance of being understanding.
“Nik has a calming effect on our patients that is so important with this population. He is creative and brings a positive energy to the unit. He has worked very hard this summer,” Morrill said. “Nik is a strong individual who has risen to the occasion whenever he faced a challenge.”
Miller credits his classes for pushing him outside his comfort zone but also in providing the opportunity to forge lifelong friendships, including in UToledo’s recreation therapy club.
“There were many ups and downs but that is something that needs to happen in our journey through life — and even in our education,” Miller said.
Miller said he remembers a time when he most needed that support – following the loss of his father during his junior year. When Miller returned to class, his classmates welcomed him with open and caring arms.
“When I came back to classes, a lot of my classmates were there to show support. I had barely even known them personally, but it made me feel I was among a great group of people and some lifelong friends,” Miller said.
Now at the end of his internship, Miller said he hopes to take a year off to travel and then take the national exam to become a certified therapeutic recreation specialist. He also has plans to further his education and apply to occupational therapy school.
“Taking this year off will allow me to grow as a person,” Miller said, “as well as spend time with my family and girlfriend, who I met my junior year in the recreational therapy program.”