According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA), horticultural therapy is a time-proven practice. The therapeutic benefits of garden environments have been documented since ancient times. In the 19th century, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and recognized as the "Father of American Psychiatry," was first to document the positive effect working in the garden had on individuals with mental illness.
In the 1940s and 1950s, rehabilitative care of hospitalized war veterans significantly expanded acceptance of the practice. No longer limited to treating mental illness, horticultural therapy practice gained in credibility and was embraced for a much wider range of diagnoses and therapeutic options.
Today, horticultural therapy is accepted as a beneficial and effective therapeutic modality. Horticultural therapy programs have proven their success in a myriad of institutional settings including prisons, mental health facilities, veteran housing and drug rehab centers. Therapy gardens and green spaces are being designed and utilized as methods of addressing mental health issues.
"A therapeutic garden is a green space purposefully designed to facilitate interaction with the healing elements of nature. Interactions can be passive or active depending on the garden design and users’ needs. There are many sub-types of therapeutic gardens including healing gardens, enabling gardens, rehabilitation gardens, and restorative gardens." Learn more by reading AHTA's characteristics of therapeutic gardens.
The profound connection to nature, the physical relationship with the environment, the creative and nurturing process of building and maintaining gardens along with changes in diet to healthy eating are known to promote healing among the mentally ill, or persons experiencing emotional trauma.
UGW is presenting at the AHTA's National Conference on October 5th, 2018 in Denver, CO. The presentation titled "Seeding Transformation, Harvesting Autonomy" focuses on our Mustard Seed program and how it helps women coming out of prison redirect their lives through gardening therapy and urban farming.
The session explores ways to build self-sufficient lives after incarceration through horticulture therapy and the creation of garden-related industries. At the same time, it illustrates the fragile steps individuals take in re-connecting to their community. Cerasee Farm manager Anita Franchetti will discuss the impact of the program on her life, the way horticulture therapy changed destructive behaviors centered around drug addiction, and revolving door imprisonment.
For a comprehensive overview of the practice of horticultural therapy, please read the AHTA Position Paper. To follow the latest media buzz on horticultural therapy, visit their blog.