A holistic approach to addiction treatment should include both traditional and complementary therapies. Horticultural therapy is one of many complementary therapies used in high-quality treatment programs, and research shows that there are many benefits of horticultural therapy.
What is Horticultural Therapy?
Horticultural therapy is a nature-based intervention that takes place in a garden setting. Participants engage in gardening activities and learn new skills, guided by a horticultural therapist who helps them make connections between gardening and their own experiences. Horticultural therapy is administered in the context of an individual’s treatment goals and enhances traditional treatment therapies by looking at a variety of problems in new ways.
The Benefits of Horticultural Therapy
Horticultural therapy has been widely used in a variety of settings since the 1950s when it was used to help treat hospitalized war veterans. Since then, a large body of research has proven the benefits of horticultural therapy.
Improves your mood. An article published in the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation found that one of the benefits of horticultural therapy is that it improves mood. The study measured changes in total mood disturbance among cardiac rehab patients who participated in horticultural therapy, compared to a group that participated in patient education classes. Participants in horticultural therapy reported significant decreases in total mood disturbance, while it remained unchanged in the patient education group.
Improves social skills. A number of studies illustrate the benefits of horticultural therapy for improving social and interpersonal skills. In addition to increasing social participation and promoting healthy interpersonal relationships, horticultural therapy improves self-awareness and helps individuals relate better to others.
Improves memory and cognition. One study found that horticultural therapy reduced attention fatigue and promoted a higher level of attention. It also improved alertness and concentration and lowered chronic stress, which can reduce the ability to learn and remember. Issues with memory and thinking aren’t uncommon among people in recovery, but the good news is that this is often reversible, and horticultural therapy can help.
Promotes emotional growth. According to Virginia Tech horticulture professor Diane Relf, horticultural therapy improves self-confidence and self-esteem, and it helps to improve self-control through the redirection of aggressive feelings. Horticultural therapy also promotes curiosity, rekindles interest in the future and satisfies the human creative drive.
Reduces stress. It’s commonly understood that engaging in gardening activities and interacting with nature reduces stress and lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. But research shows that horticultural therapy can also help the body learn to respond better to stress, reducing its negative effects like increased heart rate and blood pressure.
The benefits of horticultural therapy don’t end there. Horticultural therapy helps people in recovery engage in healthy conversation about their experiences and learn important life lessons from them. And for many who participate in horticultural therapy, gardening becomes a hobby that brings great joy and peace.
Horticultural therapy can be a helpful and enjoyable addition to your treatment plan, and it can lead to a lifelong love for growing beautiful things.