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What Is Horticultural Therapy - The Quality Of Life
What Is Horticultural Therapy - The Quality Of Life

Video: What Is Horticultural Therapy - The Quality Of Life

Video: What Is Horticultural Therapy - The Quality Of Life

On a warm sunny morning, Tony Wright in his garden in Roswell, Georgia. He worked as a HR manager and is now retired. Sitting in a folding chair, Tony is immersed in contemplation, surrounded by shady trees and chirping birds. He drinks coffee and reads Daily Reflections, a book published by the 12 Steps program. Then, walking through the garden, he observes the condition of the plants, what they need. This is how he starts every day. This young-looking 68-year-old came to this lifestyle after years of struggling with addiction

Here he transplants petunias, plunging his large hands into the soil and watering the transplanted plants from a watering can. “Even if I just water the plant or prune the bushes, I get in touch with nature, and I try to listen to what nature tells me every morning,” says Wright. - Now I feel much better. In the past, depression plagued me.”

Four years ago, Wright was introduced to horticultural therapy. This happened during treatment at the Skyland Trail mental health center in Atlanta. Horticultural therapy is a professional practice that uses plants and horticulture to improve the mental and physical health of clients. The horticultural therapist can work with any type of patient who benefits from interaction with plants. They can be veterans, children, the elderly, and those suffering from addiction and mental health problems.

“I had serious problems with depression and alcoholism, they made my life and the life of my family and loved ones a nightmare,” says Wright. He was treated at the Skyland Trail Center, where he spent almost every day tending the plants in the greenhouses.

“It was an unusual situation for me. They asked me: “Can you make flower arrangements? Can you transplant plants, prune trees? " And I said, "I'll try." It was a cure, and I didn't even know about it. Nobody sat in front of me with the words: “Now you are going to have a psychotherapy session. Here's what we're going to do …”- says Tony. "When I touch the plant … it really calms me down."

Mental and physical benefits from nature

Horticultural therapy is based on the idea that interacting with plants can heal a person. This can be growing your own garden or just houseplants.

It is known that being in nature, for example, walking in a garden, park or forest, can improve not only the state of consciousness, but also normalize blood pressure, heart rate and levels of stress hormones. Those who spend more time in nature live longer.

However, caring for plants or the garden under the guidance of a therapist is more than that. The point is, "This puts clients in a situation where they have to take care of someone, and this is a very important role for those who are used to passive medical care," says Joel Flagler, professor of horticultural therapy at Rutgers University.

Research has shown that horticultural therapy supports a person's recovery and improves mood. It allows to reduce the length of stay of patients in medical institutions.

Flagler cites a study by Rutgers University on the effects of Japanese gardens on a group of Alzheimer patients: “It has been shown that patients with severe dementia improved memory function after a session of horticultural therapy. Some of the participants remembered the chirping of grasshoppers in the garden two weeks after the session."

What can we learn from plants

In June, CNN reporters attended a group session in a greenhouse. It was led by horticultural therapist Libba Shortridge. She talked enthusiastically about how turning a seed into a plant is analogous to the healing process of a person with mental problems.

“Winter comes, when everything falls asleep, nature drops its leaves, and there seems to be no hope left. In fact, it is,”says Shortridge. “The seeds have an amazing clock inside that tells them when to open and take root! What is needed for growth? Sun, water, confidence and courage! " “Patience!” Adds one of the participants. “Yes, of course, patience! This is very true! " - says Shortridge.

The group members then plant seeds in one of the clinic's many gardens. Birds chirp over their heads and a light breeze blows. Shortridge shows the sun shining through the leaves, creating a whimsical pattern on the grass. "Pay attention to this picture." Attention and observation are an important part of the therapeutic process.

Gardening is also beneficial for physical health, for example, leading to improved flexibility of the fingers and coordination between hand movements and vision.

“Digging the ground with a shovel and standing for long periods of time improves balance, as does walking in the garden with a tool in hand,” says Flagler. “Our clients are often afraid that their seeds will not germinate. But when a seed sprouts, it proves to a person that his actions lead to real change. When the plant blooms, it evokes in a person a sense of self-esteem and self-confidence, he perceives this as his own success."

Help for wheelchair users, people with special needs

When it comes to people who move in wheelchairs, they are helped by growing plants in containers and boxes at a convenient height. They also have special tools that horticultural therapists teach them to use.

Rachel Cochran founded Trellis Horticultural Therapy Alliance, a non-profit organization after her daughter was hit by a car and suffered brain damage.

What is horticultural therapy 1
What is horticultural therapy 1

The horticultural therapist who took over her treatment found that there were few opportunities in their town to study therapy gardens with students with special needs.

Georgia Institute of Technology received a grant to create a sensory garden for wheelchair learners. It's not grown yet, so while nature comes to class.

“We bring flowers. We bring home-grown birdseed seeds for our patients to load their hands with. We bring pine cones, moss, bright yellow and red flowers. We set up a bird feeder right on the window,”says Cochran. This therapy is not only for students, she says, “teachers' mental health is also improving. By virtue of their profession, teachers often become boring and boring, and our work helps them to overcome this."

Today, the organization runs numerous projects throughout the city, such as having a garden next to a multi-story nursing home where it works with a small group of elderly people. They plant, care for, and taste the fruits they have grown.

Ancient Link

“Plants are unique in sensory stimulation,” says Flagler. It is aroma, texture, taste and sound”- when, for example, the leaves of trees rustle in the wind or the stems of bamboo creak. Flagler believes that plants constantly remind a person of changes: a new leaf, a new fruit, a new flower, a scent.

He points out that the evolution of man over millions of years took place in a green world. Trees and diverse vegetation provided us with food, medicine, and shelter constantly. “There is an ancient bond between humans and plants. Now we know how to use it for therapy and rehabilitation."

Flagler points out that prison inmates who participated in horticultural therapy programs have seen a decrease in relapse rates. In addition, these programs teach "green skills", which for many can become a full-fledged new profession.

“We work closely with the landscape industry. If we succeed in making a young person feel like a professional in the “green world” - growing, pruning, etc. - he can find a job.

Several universities, such as Colorado State University and Rutgers University, teach and award degrees in gardening therapist.

Other schools offer intensive courses in this specialty and are certified by the American Horticultural Therapy Association.

Plants teach

Sitting in his shady backyard in Georgia, Tony Wright says gardening helps him to become aware of himself as part of something greater. This feeling eased his years of suffering. Wright now volunteers for the Heavenly Earth Path Center, where he once began his fellowship with plants, and other programs throughout the South.

“A garden is something alive,” he says. - "He has his own process." The sun rises; the sun is setting. The plant reacts to light; it reacts to darkness. So are we. The plant falls asleep at night. Maybe I should follow him? Should I stay awake until three in the morning, or is it better to lie down and rest?"

Author: Emmy Chillag