Healing Green: The Benefits of Horticultural Therapy

Immersing yourself in nature is a great way to rejuvenate and heal. Horticulture therapy for recovery is an important way to take full advantage of the physical and mental health benefits available from spending time in nature.

What Is Horticulture Therapy?

Horticulture therapy engages people in gardening and plant-based activities to achieve specific therapeutic and rehabilitation treatment goals. Gardening is a popular, readily accessible, and recreational way to enjoy a variety of healthy lifestyle activities. Horticulture therapy combines the therapeutic nature of a custom-designed environment with tasks aimed at meeting the therapeutic needs of people in recovery.

Benefits of Horticulture Therapy

Research has shown that horticulture therapy increases motivation, stimulates the five senses, and is a healthy way to boost self-esteem.

Stress and anxiety play major roles in addiction for many people. Horticulture therapy has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety when it’s used as a therapeutic tool. This is due to the effects that communing with nature has on the body, such as reducing blood pressure and heart rate, as well as cortisol levels, which contribute to stress.

The physical activity involved in gardening also helps participants exercise, improve their physical health and well-being, and lose weight.

How Does a Horticulture Therapy Session Work?

Typically, the horticulture session starts with a talk about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Participants then take a quick tour of the gardens that emphasizes the educational and recreational aspects of horticulture. At the same time, participants are shown different elements in the environment that can stimulate their senses.

After the tour, individuals can engage in planting activities. Examples of this include dividing and potting houseplants, starting seedlings, tending vegetables and flowers, and composting. The therapist conducting the session gives a lecture on a topic such as psychology, medication-assisted treatment, nutrition, addiction risk factors, or any other topic that’s relevant to successful addiction recovery.

Horticulture Therapy and Skills Training

Horticulture therapy is also a skills training opportunity for people in recovery. For many who like to work with their hands and enjoy garden-related activities, horticulture therapy can open doors to new careers in areas such as landscape planning, garden nursery jobs, flower arranging or grounds keeping.

Rewards of Horticulture Therapy

Once people in horticulture therapy successfully grow flowers and vegetables, they then can enjoy and share their accomplishments with their peers, their families, and the staff.

Participants also gain a sense of their role in the environment and feel more connected to the natural world.

Horticulture therapy activities gives people opportunities to work as planners, builders, and landscapers in a garden world they create together, giving the group a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Individuals in recovery can enjoy other healing benefits of horticulture therapy, including:

  • Empowerment
  • Inspiration
  • Competency
  • Feeling grounded
  • Balance
  • A reconnection with the outside world
  • A sense of belonging
  • A sense of accomplishment
  • Self-confidence

When you or a loved one are considering an addiction recovery program, look for holistic therapy approaches that include horticulture therapy. The more comprehensive a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program is, the more opportunity there is for successful recovery from substance abuse.