What Is Horticultural Therapy?
Horticultural therapy is the centuries-old practice of cultivating personal growth in parallel with the alchemy of gardening. Recent advances in the study of neuroscience validate the efficacy of an approachable nature-based intervention. By placing students in caregiving roles, we create an experiential environment that is both growth-focused and life-affirming.
Safety & Predictability
PQ’s gardens are a place of growth, tranquility, and peaceful connection with nature. Like in our lives, there are tasks that require daily attention and obstacles and challenges to overcome. Sensory integration and somatic experiences are some of the many interventions woven into the safety and predictability of working in PQ’s therapeutic garden.
The garden is one of many areas in the program where students learn to practice life skills. Every gardener knows that failure and adaptation are central to the process of growth. Success depends on persistence and improvisation. Students also develop executive function skills through organizing and executing planting schedules, charting compost temperatures, and implementing meal plans for a community of diverse dietary needs and an ever-changing harvest schedule.
Pacific Quest’s Approach
At Pacific Quest, horticultural therapy helps address hyperarousal and dysregulation in the nervous system while building a reciprocal relationship with the natural world.
Our sustainable gardens (and the work students do in them) aren’t just a critical part of our therapeutic model. They’re also a foundation of our nutrition program. Unlike any other outdoor therapeutic program, students at Pacific Quest learn about reciprocity by working together to cultivate some of the food they eat. While everything grows fast in Hawaii, much of what students plant will be harvested well after their time with us. Pineapples, for example, take two years to harvest! This means that a bigger perspective gets planted along with every seed—we are truly growing our future.
Why It Works
The gardens at Pacific Quest are a living example of what growth looks like—a tangible example of how our work, nurturing, and care pay off. We design garden activities to provide students empowering life skills that are transferable to the outside world.
Our daughter went to Pacific Quest (PQ) in the spring of 2018. She suffered from depression and anxiety. Regular therapy at home was not enough and we heard about PQ. We were very reluctant to send her away from home. However, the staff made us feel better about the decision. Now, we know it was the best decision we could have made. It changed her life! The healthy living made a huge difference. The on-going therapy with Andrew Vispo (who was absolutely fantastic) helped her immensely and helped us. We will be forever grateful to PQ, Andrew and the rest of the staff.