Jeremy Brownstein
Department of Social Work Education
Contract approved in March 2011
Funded by MHSA; Prevention and Early Intervention
(PEI) component
8 garden sites under three contracted providers
Target groups: refugee and immigrant populations
Southeast Asian, Native American, Mexican American,
African American, Eastern European, and Punjabi
Focused on prevention and addressing the early
onset of mental health issues
Non-traditional means of service delivery
Opportunities to clients
Harvest a piece of land
Access to a natural space
Social interactions
Meeting place for community members
Platform for discussion on mental health wellness and
Close ended
Limitation for expansion
Potential loss of funding
Few studies that support gardens in such a
Healing Gardens
In Mesopotamia, dating as far back as 2000 B.C.,
lush agricultural plots that lay in the fertile river
valleys provided inspiration for the first designed
gardens in this otherwise very arid landscape *
Across cultures, nature has traditionally held an
important role in health, vitality, and spirituality
*Jellicoe, G. & Jellicoe, S.(1995). Landscape of man (2nd ed.). London: Thames and Hudson, 1995
Europe around the Middle Ages, developed gardens
and courtyards at hospitals and monasteries for the
sick and insane which served as places for reflection,
growing food and herbs for consumption and
medicinal use, and growing flowers for use in
ceremonies *
* Tyson, Martha M. (1998). The Healing Landscape: Therapeutic Outdoor Environments. New York: McGraw-Hill.
In 1812 Dr. Benjamin Rush, known for his role in
the development of modern psychiatry and a
founding father of the United States, published a
book titled, “Medical Inquiries and Observations
Upon Diseases of the Mind” *
Rush stated that “digging in a garden” was one of
the activities that distinguished those male
patients who recovered from their mania from
those who did not
First instance of nature assisted therapy in
*Rush, B. (1812). Medical inquiries and observations upon diseases of the mind. Philadelphia: Kimber & Richardson.
Retrieved September 22, 2013 from
Roger Ulrich
Stress Reduction Theory
Rachel and Stephen Kaplan
Attention Restoration Theory
Roger Ulrich in his paper “Visual Landscapes
and psychological well-being” noted that
urban scenes tended to bring about fear and
sadness, where nature landscapes elicited
friendliness, playfulness and elation *
Development of the Psychological Stress
Reduction Theory
Individuals are predisposed to find non-threatening interactions with natural
stimuli relaxing and that exposure has a substantial impact upon the
parasympathetic nervous system, which contributes to feelings of relaxation
and enhanced wellbeing
* Ulrich, Roger. (1979). Visual Landscapes and Psychological Well-being
“View through a window may influence recovery from
surgery” study
Foundational in that it showed a connection to the
restorative ability of nature, even when individuals
are not in direct contact with the environment
Rachel and Stephen Kaplan
Environmental Psychologists
Attention Restoration Theory *
Asserts that individuals who spend more time in nature
will have better cognitive functioning
* Kaplan, R., & Kaplan, S. (1989). The experience of nature: A psychological perspective. New York:
Cambridge University Press.
Clatworthy (2012) explored the relationship
between suburban allotment gardening and
wellbeing by utilizing an Interpretative
Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) approach
with six gardeners, found seven main themes
emerge: fundamental importance of food,
protection and safety, feeling connected,
esteem, pleasure of being in nature,
development and values.
Exploratory Study
How do clients describe their lived experience as a
participant in a horticultural therapeutic
community center garden?
In what ways do clients believe their participation
has affected them?
Utilizing a phenomenological approach
Focused on the lived experiences of individuals in
order to develop a lived and existential meaning
from their experiences
Structured interview instrument (24 questions)
Flyers distributed at each site
Volunteer participation
8 interviews collected
Verbatim transcription
Significant statements
Explain experiences
Three themes were identified amongst
responses regarding participant experiences in
their garden
Mental and Physical Wellness
Participants reported feeling isolated prior to
becoming involved in a garden
The garden has been a way to connect and
socialize with others
“before gardening at home I was aggravated and made me
angry at little things, but here when we socialize it helps to
relax, keeps me happy with talking with other people it
helps my mind. ”
“It’s good that I know that there is people out there who are
like me...”
“I left all my families back in Laos, I come here just myself.
The garden help me to everyday life and just with the
garden see friends. ”
The need to care for the garden
Provide food for themselves and families
“It contributes back to me that I’m getting something to
contribute to my family”
“It’s a self-help process for me, in the morning I wake up, I
have purpose, what I need to do today if I plant something it
looks like they’re calling me, the plant is calling me to come
today, I have to go”
“so garden it motivates me, made me working hard, keeps
me moving ”
Participants stated they believe the garden has
enhanced their mental and physical health
Opportunity for exercise
“I have gained physical strength...also helping my mobility,
which is my arm and body, and working in the garden”
Stress relief
“I used to cry and also cry a lot, but when I tend in the
garden my distress and everything that I have is release, to
see the garden and working at it, it just disappears”
“I feel like my emotional is stable now. My immune system
has changed, I feel more normal than living in the chronic
illness (depression)”
“It keeps me fresh and it keeps me healthy”
Participants demonstrated with multiple
statements the importance of having access to
the garden
Concerned with the growth and the
continuation of their garden
Belief that gardening is better than medicine
and traditional Western treatment
Half of the participants became very emotional
during the interviews
Data collection
Advocacy for limited culturally appropriate
Development of gardens in other settings of
Prescribing nature
Similar structured studies
Examination of best practices
Development of outcome measurement tools
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to
stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was
really going in.”
- John Muir

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