EDUCATING ~ CONNECTING ~ ENGAGING ~ NURTURING ~ REVITALIZING ~ COLLABORATING ~ INSPIRING
By Lesley Fleming, HTR
It is inevitable that issues arise when horticultural therapy programs are being delivered. Having informal or formal groups to discuss concerns offers several advantages; a sounding board is provided where experienced practitioners can interact with emerging peers in nonthreatening settings, multiple perspectives are provided seeking best-practice solutions, and a process for problem-solving can be initiated. Practitioner forums can elevate professional competencies in many ways: through professionals sharing on a regular basis, group discussions as part of regular meetings, on-line conversations, or articles in trade publications.
Q: I have some clients who just aren’t engaging in my therapeutic horticulture programs. What should I be doing?
A: On-going review of each activity and overall program analysis is critical to the success and attainment of therapeutic goals for all participants. Some of the questions that should be asked by therapist, with input from others include:
Q: I can never seem to make the facility administrator happy no matter what HT activity I deliver.
A: Communication is essential for understanding what facility staff expects. In some situations there are unwritten rules that are not always shared with a horticultural therapist who spent only a few hours a month delivering services.
Clarification of acceptable parameters are necessary, i.e. no edibles brought into facility, no essential oils other than facility approved brands, no colorful pieces allowed, acknowledgement of staff reluctance to use outside garden area. To that point, parameters and guidelines for residents' families are also necessary, i.e. plastic, not glass bottles. Such resident guidelines can be a natural starting point for HT program planning.
Upon conclusion of activities, staff made comments like “the Halloween bat puppet was a kindergarten activity”. Detailed activity descriptions with therapeutic goals, provided well in advance of the session allowed the administrator the control and veto power she sought. Though this placed greater administrative burden on the practitioner, the positive side of this process was an opportunity to discuss and educate about the merits of each therapeutic horticulture activity, including the importance of the therapeutic process. The bat puppets and their related theme of environmental stewardship along with the primary goals of maintaining fine motor and spatial reasoning skills was in the end accepted, with agreement to deliver the activity next year.
About the author
Lesley Fleming is a registered horticultural therapist living in Florida. She delivers therapeutic horticulture programs to multiple populations, conducts HT workshops in both Canada and the U.S., and her articles are featured regularly in HT trade publications including eatbreathgarden.com. Her latest research in 2015, Veteran to Farmer Programs: An Emerging Nature-Based Programming Trend was published in the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture 25(1) 27-48.