Wilderness, horticulture, bountiful gardens, Hawaii…All of these words conjure up positive thoughts and energy which is why Pacific Quest has become the destination for families with struggling teens and young adults. Pacific Quest is actually the only wilderness therapy program that uses Horticultural Therapy as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
From the beginning to the end of their treatment, teens and young adults are guided as they go through the wilderness experience, providing structure, boundaries, nurturing and healing all along the way. We have witnessed the life changing effects of our unique program and believe in the power of horticulture.
“When gardeners garden, it is not just pants that grow, but the gardeners themselves” – Ken Druse
If you haven’t noticed, going green isn’t just about being environmentally conscious anymore- gardens and horticultural therapy is currently used in places like rehabilitation and vocational centers, nursing homes, hospitals (especially Veterans Administration facilities), hospices, homeless shelters, substance abuse centers, prisons, schools, mental health centers, and botanical gardens.
It is used as an extension of therapy for people with mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety in addition to helping struggling teens through their transition to adulthood
“Horticulture” is the art and science of growing plants. Horticultural therapy is the practice of engaging people in plant or gardening activities to improve their bodies, minds, and spirits. Research has confirmed the healthful benefits when people connect with plants by viewing, planting, growing, and/or caring for them.
Horticulture therapy is not actually “new.” It has been used as therapy for centuries. In 1798, Dr. Benjamin Rush (a signer of the Declaration of Independence) documented that gardening improved the conditions of his mentally ill patients. In addition, gardening for physical and occupational rehabilitation was used in U.S. Veterans Administration hospitals for returning World War II veterans. More recently, the concept of using nature to improve human health and well-being took bounds and leaps in the 70’s and gained credibility through research in the ’80s.
Pacific Quest & Horticultural therapy
“Horticultural therapy utilizes organic gardening in conjunction with proven therapeutic modalities to meet specific therapeutic treatment goals. Pacific Quest is the only outdoor therapy program to utilize this cutting-edge, client-centered, treatment model to enhance social, cognitive, and physiological functioning with the primary goal of improving health and inspiring motivation for change.”
From seed to plate, our students band together to run a garden for a few months. In doing this, essential lessons, healing and growth can now take place. Many teens and young adults come to Pacific Quest without ever-experiencing one-on-one time with nature. The back-to-basics approach of wilderness therapy helps our teens shed their destructive learned behaviors and start fresh. Through horticulture therapy, the garden is one of many areas in the program where students learn to practice the skills to live a more independent and productive life. They are first introduced to the garden by eating the food planted by the student who was in their shoes just a few months ago. Students build the garden beds, plant the seeds, care for the seedlings and cook the food. With minimal help from the staff the teens learn how to problem solve on their own, as well. Students then take extra fruits and vegetables to the local farmer’s market to sell. The profit is donated to a local charity.
As students develop the courage, knowledge, and skills to care for a garden, they experience tangible success that builds greater confidence in them, helping to create a positive self-image. They also realize their ability to internalize care for themselves, applying new skills and insights to aspects of their lives that reach far beyond a therapeutic garden in Hawaii.
In a world so filled with changes that we have no control over, Horticulture Therapy offers at least one big advantage for the kids: The garden setting never changes. This gives them ample time to connect with their surroundings and feel at home. “With the garden, you’re living in a place and learning about the community and building a community.” That stable environment can help the kids let their guard down.
The program also empowers teens and young adults through experiencing the pride of successful gardening and working with others in the community to produce beautiful and bountiful gardens.
Benefits of Horticulture Therapy
Scientific research has proven the benefits of horticultural therapy in many areas: Physical, Social, Emotional and Cognitive
- Improves strength, stamina and mobility
- Increases energy and endurance
- Exercises hand-eye coordination
- Encourages social interaction
- Improves coping skills and motivation
- Helps build good work habits and attitudes
- Reduces anxiety, stress, and tension
- Increases confidence and hopefulness
- Rewards nurturing behavior
- Stimulates senses through observing, touching, tasting, and smelling plants
- Improves concentration and ability to focus
- Teaches new skills and provides job training
- Improves problem-solving and planning skills
- Exercises the memory and promotes positive thinking
In the wilderness program at Pacific Quest our teens and young adults learn:
- Cooperation, communication and teamwork
- To control their own behaviors and responses
- To accept rules and boundaries
- To foster meaningful relationships with others
- “Real world” tasks and skills
- Appreciation for simple things: water, food, a warm place to sleep, friends and family
- “Back to basics” approach helps teens shed destructive learned behaviors and start fresh.
- Teens learn that they can control their own behavior, but cannot change rules, environment, weather or other people.
- Teens learn about boundaries and immediate consequences for their actions.
- Learning real life skills, such as gardening, self-care, coping mechanisms and personal responsibility.
- Learning the value of teamwork and fostering meaningful relationships.
- Removal of distractions and stillness of nature leaves space for teens to reflect and appreciate simple things.
- Teens are empowered to make healthy choices for themselves
Pacific Quest: Uniquely Effective
The uniquely effective Pacific Quest wilderness program incorporates horticulture therapy as part of our integrative therapy model aimed toward the goal of sustainable growth and change. Being happy and healthy is a journey we embark on as a teen and young adult…a journey that starts at Pacific Quest.
In a world so filled with things out of our control our teens are learning and developing skills with horticultural therapy that help rebuild a healthy sense of control. Being in nature has shown to have calming effects. A calmer mind is important in being able to understand the mind-body connection. Emotions clearly affect our bodies, and concurrently how we feel physically impacts emotions. If we can identify how we are truly feeling, we can deal with situations better – in a healthy way. Yoga and other exercise also helps students get in touch with their inner selves and learn healthy techniques for remaining calm and under control.
At Pacific Quest, a variety of therapeutic methods and evidence-based modalities are uniquely used to help teens and young adults to move towards solution-oriented approaches for healthier functioning, such as:
- DBT (Dialectical Behavior Treatment)
- CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy)
- ART (Aggression Replacement Therapy)
- American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) model treatment
- IBSR (Integration Based Stress Reduction)
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
Pacific Quest develops an individualized care plan for each of our students, which includes individual and group therapy time. Therapists are able to work with students one-on-one to help them get to the root of their troubles, and group therapy is a chance to talk with peers about shared experiences.
Wilderness therapy is a powerful experience for everyone involved. By the end of their horticulture therapy program at Pacific Quest, teens and young adults have developed a strong sense of accomplishment and personal growth. In conclusion, just like the gardens they have nurtured and cultivated, at the end of their Pacific Quest program, students are well equipped to move on to the next stage of their journey in life.