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I. What is horticulture therapy
II. A brief history of horticulture therapy
III. Benefits of horticulture therapy
IV. Links to other horticulture therapy sites
What is horticulture therapy
The American Horticulture Therapy Association defines horticulture therapy as, "a process utilizing plants and horticultural activities to improve social, educational, psychological and physical adjustment of persons thus improving their body, mind and spirit." After researching a little myself, I understood why it does work. Without any scientific research or complicated experiments (and that is not to say there has not been any), I think anyone can understand it too. Just think about the way walking outside refreshes you, or how seeing nature bloom into spring lifts your spirits. It is easy to imagine that making things grow can be a boost in self-esteem and a jolt of independence. The great thing about horticulture therapy is that it is so accessible and beneficial to so many different types of people, whether disabled, elderly, young, poor or wealthy. Benefits are not only physical, but mental and social as well. I am convinced that horticulture therapy can improve many people's lives. Even if it is only to help relax and unwind, horticulture therapy can improve any person's life.
A brief history of horticulture therapy
You might be surprised to learn that horticulture therapy has been around for quite some time. It has definitely become more popular recently and it is kind of "the hype" right now in horticulture and therapy fields. The idea started when poor people in the 1600's worked in gardens to pay for their hospitalization. Doctors noticed these patients recovered quicker and to a better health standard than the other patients did. After both World War I and II, servicemen worked in gardens to improve functioning of injured limbs and increase mental function, but also to learn new skills and to provide food. By 1955, the first undergraduate degree in horticulture therapy was given by Michigan State University and in 1971, Kansas State University offered the first graduate program. Now horticulture therapy is used in hospitals, nursing homes, institutions, rehabilitation facilities, schools, prisons, camps, day care centers, group homes, halfway houses, homeless shelters, community centers...I think you get the idea. These programs are popping up all over the place with successful results that are increasing popularity even more.
Benefits of horticulture therapy
The benefits of horticulture therapy are what make it so different than other types of therapy. People of any age can do it, and activities can be varied according to abilities. Work areas can be at different levels to accommodate those who are in wheelchairs or unable to bend. Also, horticulture therapy can be done year round and is easily transferred over to use outside of the facility. (you can do it at home with out special nurses or expensive equipment.) Horticulture therapy improves the over all well being of not only patients, but caretakers and families of patients. Patients can actually have fun in therapy and have something to show for all their work. This therapy enhances physical, mental and social health.
Physical -increase muscular strength and body mechanics -stretch muscles and increase range of motion -improve fine motor skills -tone underused muscles -improve coordination and balance
Mental -increase autonomy and independence -outlet for stress, anger and emotional expression -increase self esteem -increases observation skills -provides choices and ability to use problem solving skills -increase attention span
Social -reversal of dependency -opportunity to interact with others -commitment to a living thing -cooperation and team working skills -dealing with success and failure -can learn and be inspired by other people with other people with similar disabilities
Links to other horticulture therapy sites
The American Horticulture Therapy Association
Theory and why horticulture therapy works
Creating a horticulture therapy garden
Where and what horticulture therapy programs are offered
Horticulture therapy book and video lists
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