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Guiher Postcard

As a member of the clinical team at the James E. Van Zandt Veterans’ Administration Medical Center, Rachel Guiher uses recreation and leisure programs to support the treatment goals of the men and women who served our country. A 2004 graduate of Penn State’s now Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management major, Rachel focused in the Therapeutic Recreation option.

“The best part of my job is helping our nation’s heroes and learning from them and their stories.”

Guiher Cookie

Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, Rachel was a non-traditional student in RPTM. She started at Behrend campus right out of high school but felt that the time wasn’t right. In the three years between leaving Behrend and restarting her education, Rachel took a job as a neurobehavioral tech in the Traumatic Brain Unit at the then-named HealthSouth Rehabilitation center. It was there that she learned about what some centers call Recreational Therapy. Working alongside the RT staff, she found her eventual career path. She reapplied to Penn State with the goal of securing her professional certification as Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. In the years since graduation, Rachel has worked in a variety of community and clinical settings putting her degree to use helping people.

Guiher Smile

“I did my internship at the VA in Altoona,” she said. “After college I took jobs in a memory support neighborhood, in early intervention, and in personal care—which also had memory support. I also was a manager for an adult day program for several years.”

In 2016, when a position opened back at the agency where she completed her internship, Rachel applied and was selected. The VA offers short term rehabilitation, long term care, and out-patient services for veterans of all branches of the Armed Forces.

Guiher Tai Chi Easy

“The core of Therapeutic Recreation hasn’t changed since I was at Penn State,” said Rachel. “How we do it has changed. Technology is huge. We are using Virtual Reality (VR) as one example to assist our clients with pain management, anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD).” According to Rachel, the personal relationship and interaction between the TR professional and the clients is still key. She was recently certified in “Tai Chi Easy,” which is a program that offers a simplified Tai Chi system that has been linked to improved mobility, immunity support, reduction in anxiety and pain, and disease management.

On her days off, Rachel and her wife Kim enjoy spending time at their cabin in Cook Forest and hiking with their dogs. 

Although Penn State no longer offers the Therapeutic Recreation option in RPTM, Rachel remains in contact with her colleagues and faculty at Penn State. “I look back on my time at Penn State as one of the best times in my life. It was so great learning from faculty and the support they gave us. They allowed us to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. I love what I do, and feel like I was put on this earth to help people.”