Gardening Program Contributes to Recovery

Cordilleras Horticulture Therapy program still growing strong

Cordilleras Mental Health Rehabilitation Center (MHRC) introduced its Horticulture Therapy program in 2007. Since then, the garden's expansion and the programming that developed along with it have played an essential role in residents' recovery.

"Horticulture Therapy is an evidence-based practice that has been shown to help people learn to make healthy choices," said Laura Wolff, Administrator at Cordilleras. "It helps people move in the direction of pre-vocational and vocational training, it teaches mindfulness, and it affects peoples' emotional wellbeing as well as their physical wellbeing." 
The program at Cordilleras was initially started by a social worker who was involved in a holistic food program and wanted to bring what she was learning to the clients. "She felt that if the clients grew things and were involved in it themselves, they may be more interested in their physical health — especially with how it relates to their food consumption," said Crystal Hutchinson, Clinical Director at Cordilleras. She and the program's Horticultural Therapist, Suzanne Redell, HTR, have been with the garden from the start. Since then, the Cordilleras Vegetable Garden has been certified as a Natural Habitat by the National Wildlife Foundation
Cordilleras offers therapeutic gardening groups, such as Mindful Gardening and Moving Gardening, four times per week in addition to one-on-one HT by appointment. Clients from both The Cordilleras MHRC and the co-located adult residential facility, The Cordilleras Suites, have the opportunity to be involved with the gardening services that are offered. 

Pumpkins from the cordilleras garden: a combined 100 pounds!

Residents who partake in the gardening programs have a say in what produce they would like to grow, take care of, and harvest. Some of the produce is given to the kitchen staff for meals. The HT program is used as a way for residents to learn vocational skills and basic job training. One resident gained planning and work preparation skills through the HT program and is currently taking care of all of the plants in the three-story facility. Her goal is to work in a flower shop.
Another achievement to boast about: pumpkins that are more than 100 pounds! "We had a client who said, ‘Hey I want to grow pumpkins,' and now we have a pumpkin patch," Crystal said.
"A lot of our clients really love it. It’s so good for people to be outside, it gives people work to do, they feel productive. One of the problems with being in an inpatient program in particular, but also a residential program too, is that people need to be productive. This is a wonderful avenue for clients to feel productive and it really promotes their recovery," Laura noted.
"Not only that," Crystal added, "there’s an educational component as well. In terms of connecting mind, body and physical, and getting people outside in nature, it has been very successful. There has been a lot of positive feedback. People who have left our program will come back and ask if the garden is still there."
It's also a nice place to relax and reflect. "Having a garden has changed the environment of our facility to a positive environment that promotes recovery," Laura said.