Horticultural Therapy With
Carol O’Dowd, MPA, MDiv, MI, CAS
- Do you want to calm a racing mind?
- Do you find it difficult to place attention and focus?
- Are you looking for ways to add beauty and calm in your life?
- Do you want to enhance your eye-hand coordination?
These are a few benefits you can gain from therapeutic horticulture techniques.
Horticultural therapy uses the positive values of human interaction with plants and gardens to improve cognitive, psychological, social, and physical functions. Since the 1800s in the United States, the cultivation of plants has been used as a treatment activity for people with mental or physical health issues. Today, horticulture therapy is a recognized profession with a full range of therapeutic programs for health and wellness.
HORTICULTURAL THERAPY BENEFITS
Horticulture therapy is effective because it uses the natural connection between people and plants. The treatment activities provide benefits whether they are active or passive practices. A few of the benefits of horticultural therapy are that activities or tasks are selected to support meeting specific goals. Institutions such as hospitals, prisons, and schools are now using horticultural therapy programs to improve motor skills and balance, to increase healthy social interactions and self-esteem as well as to teach new skills and problem-solving abilities.
Horticultural therapy can support individuals with addressing their anxiety, grief, and even past traumas. For example, a client found creating and maintaining a faery garden to be an effective calming exercise. Others have found caring for plants useful as reflections of the growth and healing processes we all go through.
HORTICULTURAL THERAPY SERVICES
Horticultural therapy practices I incorporate into my therapy sessions include developing an action plan with my clients. Some techniques I use are:
- outdoor therapy sessions
- container gardening exercises
- nature connection walks
Outdoor therapy sessions are conducted where it works best for the client. Some prefer to meet on an outdoor deck while others prefer sitting in the shade of large trees.
Container gardening exercises are used as tasks to address specific therapeutic goals. Container gardening offers tasks that allow clients to focus attention while relaxing. As part of therapy, working with potted plants can be a metaphor for healing and growing. Other times gardening can be a way to accept difficult situations including loss and even death.
Nature connection walks are a passive therapeutic horticulture technique I offer frequently to clients. Using a simple walking practice outside, I help clients find calm and peace with the movement of the body while breathing deeply. Mindful walking outside gives us the opportunity to listen to life flowing in as well as around us.