I am mentoring a student who is doing an independent study on Horticulture Therapy (Therapeutic Gardens). Here is a blog I wrote for her on my current thoughts on HT. If you know of any gardening-as-therapy interventions in your area, please comment and let me know where (this can include school gardens, prison gardens, gardens in residential facilities or garden programs to teach social skills, reduce anxiety, etc).
As a near-lifelong gardener, I know that working with plants, outdoors in a garden setting, is one of the most blissful experiences I have had. Being in the garden is a Zen experience for me- I experience a clear and intense focus (what Mihaly Csíkszentmihály, the cognitive psychologist, calls “flow”) along with a sense of meaning and purpose, as all my cares fade away. Gardening has other benefits for me, I believe, including health benefits from stretching, hauling, digging and lifting, not to mention eating home grown organic produce at the peak of perfection. But a key word in that previous sentence was “believe.” As a gardener, I believe these things to be true from my own experience (which is, however, only anecdotal). As a University instructor, I need to find evidence for a practice that goes beyond the state of anecdote or belief. I need evidence that fits at least some of the rigorous requirements of science, though perhaps true empiric and experimental evidence would be hard to find for this multi-faceted practice, i.e. the one we call horticulture therapy.