Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

A Place for Plants to Grow and People to Recover

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

A Place for Plants to Grow and People to Recover

Article excerpt

Many addiction treatment campuses feature spaces where patients receive the opportunity to appreciate nature and contemplate. Yet leaders at Memorial Hermann Prevention & Recovery Center in Houston have identified a way to make that experience significantly more hands-on and better integrated into the lessons learned in patient group sessions.

A therapeutic greenhouse, part of the center's Serenity Gardens, came to be through a $700,000 fundraising campaign by rhe nonprofit treatment organization. Matt Feehery, the center's CEO, especially likes the overall accessibility of gardening, which ranks in surveys atop the list of popular recreational activities.

"This is something that anybody can do, even if all you have is an apartment with room for a window box planter," says Feehery. "It is not exclusive."

He explains that the vision for a greenhouse developed out of plans to tear down an old storage structure on the campus and build something new and more useful on that site. The center would proceed to hire two master gardeners as facility employees; these individuals work closely with clinical staff to make sure that what patients encounter in their gardening experiences brings to life the themes they discuss in group treatment.

"The themes of recovery and growth go hand in hand," says Feehery. "Some of the individuals we work with have never experienced nurturing things. If they've experienced growing anything, it's been illegal things."

Moreover, the visual nature of the greenhouse experience resonates with patients, particularly in the young-adult population. "You've got to keep things simple so that they understand that, 'That's something that also happens to me,'" Feehery says.

So a row of sunflowers that was purposely planted in a less-than-ideal location between a fence and a concrete walkway, but that still managed to flourish, carries the message that even in an adverse environment, one can achieve results. …

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