Seasonal Affective Disorder: Horticultural Therapy

By | December 20, 2011

I would imagine that this woman and her granddaughter derive a similar degree of pleasure from playing in the dirt, although perhaps in a slightly different way.

I would like to take a look at Horticultural Therapy (HT) as a separate branch of outdoor therapy in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder and chronic pain patients. Horticultural Therapy is a recognized form of psychological and occupational therapy with degree programs at several universities. The American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) defines HT as the engagement of a person in gardening activities, facilitated by a trained therapist, to achieve specific therapeutic treatment goals.

But what are the specific aspects of HT that are most therapeutic. Aside from the obvious benefits of fresh air and sunlight, gardening is a progressive purposeful activity, which provides positive feedback from the activity and the results of that activity over time. In addition I think that human beings have an innate and instinctual connection to the earth and that working with the earth is inherently pleasurable at a very basic level. I have many gardeners in my practice and I often see them seasonally for the treatment of their back and neck pain. I am always struck by the passion they have for their activity and the wonderful synergy between the therapy we provide and the therapeutic effects of their gardens. While we do not engage in barter or accept “payment in kind”, we at Schlesinger Pain Centers have on many occasions been treated to the beauty and savor of our patient’s work.

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