Horticultural Therapy is making an impact on people’s lives.
Read more about how it’s happening.
Hi everyone! We have been busy with fall classes and have finished all of the online synchronous class meetings for two sections of Horticultural Therapy Management. Now is the phase for students to complete the ‘package’ of assignments that will prepare them to start or expand horticultural therapy programs in their communities. This is a time that I especially like as an instructor, as the students provide inspiration not only to each other, but to me as well. Both student groups show enthusiasm for launching their new endeavors and bring a spirit of collaboration and support to each other. They show high caliber and diverse approaches to using horticultural therapy that I believe will expand this field in healthcare, and many types of human service and wellness. Every year, we see new ways to apply the principles and practice of horticultural therapy. Stay tuned in the coming years as former students do the work and share their innovations in future newsletters. Thanks to them for sticking with it during the pandemic and continuing to acquire skills to have a positive impact for the people they serve. Rebecca
Through the clearance checkpoint, multiple gates that elicit the telltale “clank” of prison, past armed guards in towers and through the exercise yard, we arrive at our little Eden. Blooming with flowers in an array of colors, lined with herbs growing with disregard for their borders, hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and mischievous ground squirrels battle us for the goods. A line of men in prison blues wait patiently at the gate, greeting us with smiles and handshakes. It’s a spot of beauty, growth and hope.
When we first arrived on C yard in Avenal State Prison (ASP) in July of 2018, the patch of earth was barren, spotted with a green substance of whatever was used to make sure nothing would sprout. Avenal is in the Central Valley of California, a desolate spot with foothills in the distance and very rural. Summers are long, hot and dry and the soil is laden with Valley Fever, a fungus that attacks the lungs and causes long-term damage to those who are infected.
The class we lead once every week, through Insight Garden Program (IGP), uses a 12-month curriculum focused on “growing a garden as you grow yourself.” IGP uses therapeutic horticulture to help people currently incarcerated connect to nature and their inner selves. This is achieved by using the garden as a metaphor for our own lives, creating an actual garden inside prison in the process. Each lesson begins with mindful meditation to transition from the space of prison to the space inside our garden, offering a separate space both physically and as much as possible, mentally and emotionally.
On C yard in ASP we spent our first eight months talking about systems (eco, consumerism, climate, carbon cycles, soil, etc.) and our place in the world. Using these systems we incorporate lessons on health of the earth as being like health of our bodies and spirit. We discuss plant reproduction and how closely related our bodies are to plant bodies and how similar our communities and family systems are to those of insects. We spent a few months discussing plants that would grow in the extreme conditions of Avenal and the ways we would need to improve the soil. Because of Valley Fever concerns in disturbing the native soil, we needed to build several new layers of soil. We took time discussing garden design, elements to include and talked about options of what types of garden art could be built inside the prison. Each class we brought in flowers and plants that could be used. At times, one or two of the men began to cry when touching or smelling a flower, the fragrance bringing back memories of home or of childhood, working with grandma in the garden. Holding a flower that triggers a memory can be almost as powerful as holding a missed loved one. There is little that is as powerful as nature to connect us to our past, the sights and smells jogging memories of meaningful places and events. The effect of missing nature as a human, is nowhere as apparent as in prison, with concrete and steel instead of trees and flowers.
The design of the garden was created by the participants, my role as facilitator was to provide guidance as needed but it was their creativity that turned the barren piece of land into a thing of beauty. The first stage of the garden install involved building the soil. We brought in 25 tons of compost (which happened to be partially made from kitchen scraps from the prison), 10 garbage bags of comfrey leaves, 15 bags of coffee grounds and 15 bales of straw. Layer by layer the men built up the soil. In class, we spent time using compost as a metaphor for our own lives. What experiences can we take from our past, or what feelings/emotions can we use to make our own compost, to acknowledge and use them and turn them into something that can be beautiful? It takes time, effort and energy to build compost, just as it takes time and patience to build our own selves.
Our second phase of install was six months later. Every piece of drip tube and connectors, every plant, everything must be accounted for and approved before going into the prison. Coordinating the tools and events of the day took a great deal of planning. The men were excited to finally plant what we had been talking about for months and to finally see the garden become reality. The physical garden was a culmination of months of planning and overcoming challenges and obstacles. For many of the men, for many of us, this is just like life. We all have challenges and obstacles to overcome, but with planning and effort we can keep moving forward. We used the creation of the garden to connect all of us to each other and to the earth. We use examples like how the nurturing of one single flower can have an impact on wildlife and in turn, on an entire ecosystem. How then, if we nurture ourselves as individuals and take care of each other, could that have an impact on society and even the world? And if we can create such a thing of beauty inside a place like prison, we can see the beauty in each of ourselves.
When we first arrived at the garden, we were met with hesitation and even doubt. Participants thought they would be learning gardening skills. While they did learn all of that, it was only a small piece of what they would learn about themselves and the earth. We are all beautifully connected, even while physically separated. Humans sometimes make mistakes, we get consumed by things greater than ourselves, we become disconnected. With nature and flowers and wildlife, we can connect on a deeper level, we can once again (or for the first time) learn to nurture, to heal and to grow. As a facilitator, working in the prison, was life changing. I thought I knew the power of nature, but I had only ever experienced nature as a given. Creating a garden with the men in the program taught me that we often take nature for granted. It is easy to forget about those living inside, if we assume we are not connected to them. Yet, we are, always. Just as we are all connected to all living systems.
In March of 2020, the garden was full of life. Wildlife ignored the chain link and razor wire and saw the garden in prison only as a piece of nature, inviting them to visit. Even men who weren’t in the class admired the garden through the fence from the yard and offered advice and expressed their gratitude for the garden.
When COVID hit, the class was brought to a halt. We could no longer go inside. Writing this brings up both heartbreak and hope. I miss the garden and the participants. I miss the tears, the laughter, the compassion and the sadness. I do have hope that the garden is still blooming, and with the lack of human involvement, I can envision it in its wildest state. I have similar hope and pride in the men who built the garden, I know they hold our time and the growth we shared as people, within their own beings. Even with the devastation of COVID, the garden still connects us, and I often imagine that a hummingbird that visits my garden just might also visit the garden in prison.
Calliope Correa, HTR is a graduate of the HT Institute, and an instructional support technician in the department of plant science at California State University, Fresno
The HT Institute is going strong and working hard to continue to lead the field in horticultural therapy education. Due to the COVID-19 health crisis we’ve carefully decided to move our fall 2020 classes 100 percent online. Two sections of the Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy classes are full but one remains open for enrollment. The class still open is Section III Dec. 3-6, 2020 Eastern Time Zone.
The class will be live and synchronous using Zoom to engage students in real-time discussion and experiences with as much interaction as possible. The lead instructor will be Rebecca Haller, HTM, along with several guest speakers. Times will be 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 8 a.m. to 2:30 on Sunday.
Yes, pre-class assignments will include reading specific sections of the textbook, The Profession and Practice of Horticultural Therapy, and a literature review of journal articles. Details of what to read and complete before class will be emailed to enrolled students beginning in early fall. Additional assignments will be given in class to be submitted to the instructor and discussed during the four-day class meeting.
This course introduces the profession and practice of horticultural therapy. The types of programs utilizing horticultural therapy as well as the cognitive, social, emotional and physical goals for the varied people served are considered. Students review and discuss professional literature in the field and are exposed to resources for further exploration as well as to professionals in the field. For learning objectives, go to: https://www.htinstitute.org/fundamentals-of-horticultural-therapy/
Yes. The Horticultural Therapy Institute partners with Colorado State University to offer college credit for all the certificate classes. Fundamentals is two semester credits.
We look forward to meeting new students and continuing to provide a model curriculum, real-life projects, experienced instructors and a path for students to practice the effective and timely modality of horticultural therapy. To enroll go to: https://www.htinstitute.org/student-enrollment/
For questions email Christine Capra at: [email protected] or call 303-388-0500.
When going through training, horticultural therapy practitioners learn an important lesson: we must be flexible and able to adjust on a
moment’s notice when working with and accommodating a diversity of participants in various settings. Today, practitioners face unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and practitioners are experiencing a master class in real time adaptability to adjusting their work amidst these challenges.
Challenges Practitioners Face During COVID-19
In early 2020, when it became apparent that the health impacts and easy transmission of coronavirus were widely concerning, several areas around the country and abroad moved into action. Practitioners faced a variety of challenges, including the following:
– Protecting the physical health of participants, staff, and other program constituents – Considering the unknowns of the virus early on, many agencies implemented significant restrictions for facility access or closed completely. Care team partners at agencies had to review the latest available local/state/federal and agency guidelines and implement appropriate policies and procedures, including cleaning protocols, in order to protect the physical health of constituents and make services and facilities accessible as safely as possible.
– Changes in financial situation – Due to local or agency mandates, fewer or no participants were engaging in horticultural therapy programming. This resulted in less income for many facilities and staff layoffs. Some practitioners are independent contractors and have found their contract work cancelled, cut back, or modified at a reduced pay scale.
– Logistical challenges – With hospitals and inpatient rehabilitation centers under lockdown, access became limited for clients to participate in programming and facilities for garden maintenance and respite. Some practitioners have to rely on other care team members, who still have access to gardens but have varying levels of gardening experience.
– Technology considerations – As some practitioners move their individual and group programming online, their virtual access to participants may be affected based on patient privacy concerns, slow internet connection, limited access to user friendly and internet capable devices, or user challenges in using online video chat services, including Zoom or FaceTime.
Strategies for Overcoming Challenges
For the past 18 years, the Horticultural Therapy Institute has offered face-to-face learning, training hundreds of students both nationally and internationally. Shortly after offering our horticultural therapy techniques class in Colorado and North Carolina [earlier] this year, it was evident a new way of teaching must be adopted. We quickly made the pivot to online learning and successfully held two horticultural therapy programming classes in the spring with 43 students attending the two 4-day intensives. Going forward, all fall classes will be offered online, and for 2021, one section of each class will continue online with the possibility of one class offered face-to-face. At the Institute, we always teach students that, as a horticultural therapist, you need to think on your feet and be adaptable to all kinds of changes. It’s been apparent all of the instructors at the Institute have taken heed and accepted the challenge.
Perhaps if there can be a silver lining here, many practitioners are already accustomed to developing creative solutions to various challenges, such as those mentioned above. Check out how some horticultural therapists have adapted their services.
Social distancing –When working with participants this summer at the Life Enrichment Center (http://lifeenrichmentcenter.org/) (LEC), an adult day care center in Shelby and Kings Mountain, North Carolina, Debra Edwards, HTR, organized smaller groups and staggered group interaction times when working in their gardens and greenhouse. Participants have their own tools and other program materials and do not share them. For activities, participants sit at opposite ends of six-foot tables in order to maintain their distance. Other staff assist in monitoring and encouraging social distancing and consistent hand washing. Mask wearing is encouraged for participants and modeled by staff.
Instructional and directional signage within indoor and outdoor program spaces should be easily understood by and adapted for intended possible users. It should clearly direct users on where and how they should engage with one another as they move throughout the space. Lightweight or inexpensive plastic outdoor furniture can be easily moved around outdoor spaces to encourage social distancing. Can’t go outdoors? Encourage mindfulness techniques for viewing nature through windows.
Staff escorts for programmed garden spaces – During a recent webinar jointly hosted by the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA), International People-Plant Council, and Kansas State University, speaker Teresia Hazen, MEd, HTR, QMHP, talked about how the garden spaces at Legacy Health hospital grounds (https://www.legacyhealth.org/services-and-resources/services/adult/horticultural-therapy.aspx) in Portland, Oregon, were initially restricted to medical staff only for daily respite, and patients and other hospital guests could view the gardens through windows. Eventually some restrictions were lifted, and the garden spaces became accessible to some patients and individuals who had staff escorts, including horticultural therapy staff – all wearing masks and other personal protective equipment and monitoring for social distance.
Virtual programming – With current restrictions for vulnerable populations, some practitioners have moved to virtual programming, using phone and video chat services, such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, for individual and group sessions with new and existing clients. I have recently collaborated with one of my Dallas based clients, Lifetime Wellness (https://lifetimewellness.us/), to provide participants and staff at senior and rehabilitative care facilities in Texas and Oklahoma with monthly virtual therapeutic horticulture sessions via Zoom. Each session has a seasonally appropriate theme, and I email additional related nature-based programming ideas for staff to further engage participants before and after our meetings.
Faryn-Beth Hart, HTR, of Harticulture (https://harticulture.com/) in the Bay Area, California, expanded her services this spring for one-on-one virtual therapeutic garden coaching sessions. She conducts the initial intake session over the phone, emails material lists prior to sessions, and meets weekly with clients via Zoom. She also emailed activity ideas and garden maintenance tips to fellow care team members at the Center for Discovery Residential Treatment Center and later saw that they, along with participants, had kept up the garden until she could return to in-person group sessions.
Consult with other members of the care team, including an information technology specialist, to address privacy concerns. To avoid being “Zoombombed,” it is imperative to post or share Zoom meeting links with trusted individuals only and shortly before meeting times. For regular virtual meetings, change the meeting links frequently, and avoid posting invitations on a public site.
Garden wellness kits – Organize back-to-the-basics therapeutic garden activities, complete with detailed instructions, as kits to share with clients as a service. As part of her therapeutic garden coaching sessions, Faryn-Beth Hart delivered a kit of essential gardening supplies, such as gloves and seed starting materials, to supplement her virtual work with clients.
Creative supply sourcing – When budgets are limited, it is necessary to get creative with how to deliver programming in unique new ways, with existing, recycled, and donated materials for program use. Debra Edwards encourages practitioners to dig deep and make do with what you have, especially during lean times. This spring, she took inventory of seed already on hand and was impressed with how much she had. After sowing seed just prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, participants were still able to plant a good variety of plants in the garden this summer. Jan Lane, HTR, who facilitates biweekly horticulture sessions with the therapeutic recreation team at INOVA Mount Vernon Hospital (https://www.inova.org/locations/inova-rehabilitation-center-mount-vernon) in Virginia, uses bedsheets as tablecloths for program activities; they can be removed in between sessions and laundered. She also strategized about how to expand the seeding and use of cut flowers in their raised garden planters, so the flowers could be cut from the garden and shared with other patients unable to attend her sessions Share pictures from previous events. When therapeutic horticulture programming is shut down, connect with participants by offering tips on how to engage with plants and nature wherever they are or sharing pictures of past happenings within the program on social media. Teresia Hazen talked about commemorating Earth Day and other significant events at Legacy Health by posting pictures from previous years’ Earth Day and other celebrations.
Professional education and collaboration with peers – Faryn-Beth Hart helped to organize roundtable discussions and other virtual meeting opportunities for members to plug in with peer practitioners through the California Horticultural Therapy Network in order to support them during this time. “I’m inspired by what others are doing, especially now,” she says. “It’s important to have people to bounce ideas off of. Our CHTN member meetings have also had more attendance because we are on Zoom.” She also found that she has been able to take advantage of free or discounted professional webinars and trainings, including those offered by her California networking group, AHTA, and other organizations, as she has more time available to do so.
Practitioner self-care – The circumstances of this year have been uniquely challenging and stressful for many practitioners and their clients. Many are experiencing a sense of grief over the loss of loved ones, loss of employment, loss of routine activities, loss of a sense of personal autonomy and freedom, loss of close connections with others. Yet it serves as a reminder that, as practitioners are often advocates for others and work to positively impact the physical and mental health of clients, we must also be advocates for ourselves in the same ways.
In taking care of ourselves during this time, let’s practice what we preach. As we know on a deep level, turning to nature during difficult times can be grounding and help provide perspective and reassurance. When many things shut down at the start of the spring gardening season, many practitioners have described having more available “free time” at home and how they rediscovered their appreciation for raising seedlings under grow lights. “I have never been more excited to grow seedlings, and it gave me a reason to get up in the morning and get going,” says Jan Lane. She also continues to take daily restorative nature walks in a nearby national park. “You’ve gotta make do with what you have. When you hit an obstacle, as a horticultural therapist, you keep going and make your way around it.”
Silvia is a graduate of the HT Institute, lives in Los Angeles where she volunteers as a Master Gardener, raises kids and is finding her voice in the HT industry. She has her M.A. in Public Administration with an emphasis in Non-Profit Management.
Susan Morgan is a graduate of the HT Institute and has been delivering in-person and (recently) virtual therapeutic horticulture programs for 10 years.
Congratulations to HTI graduate, Todd Snyder, HTR who recently received his professional registration through the American Horticultural Therapy Association.
He is currently working at Roger’s Behavioral Health in Wisconsin with adolescents and adults. Both units are co-ed and serving patients dealing with eating disorders along with any comorbid OCD and/or trauma. The primary therapy is CBT with a focus on exposure and response prevention treatment. Horticultural therapy is used to help with behavioral activation, distress tolerance, building coping skills, mindfulness, and exposure therapy when prescribed by the treatment team. The format is typically group therapy and takes place on unit, outdoors or in the campus greenhouse.
View the recording of a recent live webinar:
Topic: Entering the Profession of Horticultural Therapy
You will learn:
Credits available through