For many of us, winter means snow-covered walkways, freezing temperatures and commutes lengthened by the presence of puddles and slush. However, winter in Hawaii is idyllic, with sunny days and average daily temperatures often hovering around 75°F. These pristine weather conditions mean that outdoor activities continue unabated during the Hawaiian winter. Specifically, winter is a wonderful time to experience horticultural therapy at Pacific Quest’s Wilderness Therapy camp, located on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Why Wilderness Therapy?
Wilderness therapy involves individual and group therapy delivered by mental health professionals in wilderness settings. Research has shown that wilderness therapy helps improve self-concept and well-being, and also helps develop adaptive social skills needed in the real world.
Wilderness therapy has been linked to many positive outcomes including the following:
- Improved internal locus of control, which means that adolescents and adults believe that they are responsible for their own success and life decisions
- Improved self-concept and well being
- Improved functioning
- Decreased problem behaviors.
Results from observational research studies have shown that participants in wilderness therapy often express great interest in change and want to discuss these changes with parents and counselors. Additionally, participants also appreciate the opportunity to reflect in a peaceful and caring environment.
Horticultural Therapy: A Type of Experiential Therapy
Horticultural therapy is a specific type of experiential therapy that uses plants and horticultural activities to achieve treatment goals. By participating in horticultural activities, students not only feel better but also learn new skills.
At Pacific Quest, students grow and nurture flowers, vegetables, fruits and trees in the therapeutic garden, all while being engaged in therapy that incorporates current theories in human behavior, neuroscience, and counseling psychology. The goal is to inspire change and improve social, cognitive, and physiological function. By adopting caregiving roles in an experiential environment, the student experience becomes growth-focused and life-affirming.
Why Wilderness Therapy in Winter?
You’ve likely heard of seasonal depression and know that weather has long played an important role in the human experience. After all, you can probably attest to the reality of feeling better on a sunny day. Research studies have focused on the beneficial effects of warm weather, like that experienced during Hawaii winters, on mood and cognition. Research has also focused on the psychic toll that a cold and bleak winter takes on the body and mind.
For example, increased exposure to warm weather has been linked to improved mood, improved memory and cognitive broadening. Cognitive broadening refers to a person’s openness to new information. Cognitive broadening also entails a shift in thinking wherein a person becomes more creative and willing to embrace change. Such cognitive broadening likely plays a big part in the life-affirming change experienced by students who participate in horticultural therapy at Pacific Quest.