Horticultural therapy is the practice of healing using plants and nature. We’ll tell you more about the therapeutic benefits, and how you can get started.
Horticultural therapy is used in rehabilitative care and is the process of using plants and gardens to improve physical and mental health. The practice has a very long history, and the use of gardens and gardening as a way to cultivate healing and combat stress goes back to ancient times. The origins of horticultural therapy were established in the early 19th century by Dr. Benjamin Rush, a physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Horticultural therapy was used as rehabilitation in the 1940s and 1950s, for hospitalised war veterans to help them improve the functioning of injured limbs and increase mental function while learning new, diverting skills. This significantly expanded the acceptance of the practice.
Horticultural therapy takes place within an established treatment plan and is used as a therapeutic activity. It is often used in hospitals, but horticultural therapists also work in addiction recovery centres, prisons, and wilderness therapy programs for teenagers.
Horticulture Therapy Benefits
Gardening is know to be calming activity that allows you to unwind, and can be used as a mindfulness based stress reduction. A 2017 review of scientific research concluded that gardening is beneficial for overall health. Horticultural therapy helps improve memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation and language skills. In physical rehabilitation, horticultural therapy can help strengthen muscles and improve balance and endurance. In vocational horticultural therapy, cognitive skills are strengthened as people learn to work independently and problem solve.
The effects of horticultural therapy have been studied, and the practice is known to:
- Improve social skills, mood, and mental well-being
- Promote emotional growth
- Reduce stress
- Improve memory and cognition
How to Get Started
If you are interested in taking part in horticultural therapy, you can contact the American Horticultural Therapy Association, who provide access to therapy groups all over the US. There are many ways that you can cultivate your mental health by spending more time gardening on your own. Some ideas to get started include:
- Join a community garden project.
- Plant flowers in your garden.
- Build your own insect house.
- Try adding some easy to grow vegetables to your garden.
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