The Baltimore Sun: Gardening therapy is growing at this Maryland mental health hospital — and in corrections systems nationwide

Andre, a patient at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital, a state mental facility for criminal defendants, is in the greenhouse where horticulture therapy is used to help patients. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

“Research shows that just being around plants can make people feel good, and mental health providers now believe working with greenery specifically offers benefits such as stress relief, anxiety reduction and aggression control. There is growing evidence that learning to care for plants also can boost self-esteem while providing work experience…

Horticulture therapy is gaining traction beyond prisons and mental hospitals as well. Therapists are using it in their practices to treat depression and other disorders. The American Horticultural Therapy Association reports there are now nine university programs to train therapists — the nearest at Temple University and Delaware Valley University in Pennsylvania.

Therapists in Baltimore are using horticulture to help veterans.

Nan McKay, the farm manager for the nonprofit Therapeutic Alternatives of Maryland, said she came from Canada 20 years ago to work in horticulture therapy as it was starting to gain more attention in the United States.

The program seemed well suited to those who had been in combat and suffered post-traumatic stress disorders and those who had trouble finding a purpose back home. Many veterans also needed the camaraderie that came from working closely with others. The Veterans Administration agreed and two years ago began providing stipends for participants and transportation to a garden in Cromwell Valley Park just north of Baltimore.”

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