Thursday, 29 May 2008

About Horticultural Healing

The text below is taken from the Groundwork Devon and Cornwall website

The project uses horticulture as a therapy medium for people recovering from mental health problems or acquired brain injuries. In the late 1990’s we were working extensively with unemployed people through our Intermediate Labour Market programmes and through this work it became clear that mental health was a significant barrier to employment. As a response to this we set up the Horticultural Healing project in 2001. Since then we have helped 126 people and 31 return to work (either paid or voluntary). The project has helped us to develop the specialised knowledge and skills needed to work with this client group through horticulture and we have developed good practice procedures to deliver the project.

The project makes the following differences to people:

· Build confidence and self esteem

· Help towards getting a job or other volunteering or training opportunities

· Increase independent living

· Reduce reliance on medication

· Support personal development

· Enable socialisation with other people

The project achieves this by giving people the opportunity to undertake a wide range of horticultural activities including growing plants and vegetables from seed, weeding, potting on, pruning and grass cutting amongst other things. Our clients, with support, work on horticultural schemes such as maintaining and developing plant nurseries, a zen garden, wildlife areas, vegetable plots and formal grounds maintenance.

We provide each client with support and help depending on their needs. These needs are assessed and monitored throughout the length of time a person stays on the project. There are regular client review meetings and discussions with referring agencies to assess improvements or evolving support needs.

The location, the identified need and our history of successfully running projects of this nature in the past mean that this project is the best way to meet our outcomes and address the identified need.


We believe that a person’s recovery from mental health or an acquired brain injury is an individual process and everyone is different. It is for this reason that we engage participants in setting their own action plans and why participants are allowed to remain on the project for as long as it takes for them to get better.

We believe that horticulture is a valuable means towards recovery for our participants. This is because of the tactile nature of the work through touching plants, playing with dirt and using tools.

We believe that being outdoors has both physical and mental benefits for people. Whether this is simply being in the fresh air regardless of the time of year or weather conditions or whether it is benefiting from the healing qualities of the sun.

We believe that our Horticultural work provides a non-intrusive relaxed environment from which participants can learn to walk again or interact with others on the project depending on their needs.


Often full recovery is reliant on long term intervention and the opportunity to get out and do something in an environment that can adjust to their physical and mental needs, that challenges and moves people forward in a constructive way towards measurable physical, mental and emotional improvements, employment and independence. Participants often need something constructive to take part in to aid their recovery and build their strength and confidence.

Our Horticultural Healing project can provide that. We take referrals from psychiatric nurses and social services who want placements at suitable sites so that their clients can slowly start to integrate with other people again in a well supervised and friendly environment.

We have recognised powerful changes in our participants addressing some of the symptoms for mental health and acquired brain injuries. Each person arrives at the project with a different set of physical, mental or emotional needs. Recovery requires an awareness that this work can take a long time to achieve small changes such as: walking from the office to the poly tunnel without taking regular rests, being able to complete tasks that require long handled tools rather than hand tools working on our raised beds or communication improvements and learning socialising techniques.

The outcomes listed below are generic project outcomes.

· Improved Employability:

· Reduced Isolation:

· Increased Physical Activity:

· Improved Social Well Being and Psychological Health:

· Improved Personal Independence


The project is run by two full-time employed supervisors, overseen by a Programme Manager and supported by 6 volunteer supervisors. Staff have experience and knowledge of supervising volunteers in a horticultural setting. They have an understanding of the needs and complexities of working with mental health problems and acquired brain injuries.

We believe our Horticultural Healing project is a vital scheme that supports a number of people with a range of mental health problems. We know we can make a real and positive difference to people lives.

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