Social and Therapeutic Horticulture
What is it?
Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) practitioners use gardening as a familiar hands-on activity to help individuals transform aspects of their lives. It's goal-led and the focus is on overcoming barriers to recovery. We often work alongside other clinical services, such as counselling, psychological therapies and prescribed medication. Clinically-evidenced outcomes for STH include reduction in anxiety, depression and feelings of stress; increased self-esteem; increased attentional capacity and cognition; improved mood and psychological wellbeing; and building a sense of connection, belonging or social inclusion.
To read more, download a short article.
Does it work?
Our service users (known as Gardeners at Bridewell) come to us via organisations in the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership and leave after periods lasting from a few months to a couple of years, usually to take up voluntary or paid positions in a wide range of businesses and organisations. Gardeners have gone on to such jobs as garden centre assistants, self-employed gardening, apprenticeships in engineering, temporary agency driving, factory work, voluntary work and other skilled and non-skilled jobs. We provide help and guidance to our Gardeners as they begin to think about moving on and support them in their transition.
In 2016 13% of Gardeners moved into paid work, 14% into meaningful voluntary posts or work placements and 29% began a training programme. Given that many people who come to Bridewell may have never worked before, or have been out of employment for extended periods, this represents a signficant achievement.
Recently we asked a qualified professional to independently analyse Gardeners' feedback forms covering 2013-2016. Overall the results of the preliminary analysis were extremely positive. People highlighted the enormous gains they had made in self-confidence and the exceptional levels of support from the team of staff and volunteers. Gardeners particularly appreciated the opportunity to work in a team alongside people with similar experiences and develop friendships and a sense of belonging. Many identified the value of being in the peaceful garden itself as an important factor in their recovery.
A day at Bridewell
- 9.00 Staff and volunteers arrive to feed the chickens, light the wood burner in the tea room and put the kettles on
- Staff meeting. Tasks for the day dicussed and written up
- 9.30 Gardeners begin to arrive
- 9.50 Our minibus picks up Gardeners in central Witney
- 10.00 The minibus arrives back
- 10.15 Morning meeting in the tearoom. Gardeners decide which tasks they’d like to work on
- 10.30 Work begins
- 12.30 Lunch. Packed lunches eaten in the garden in summer or in the tearoom when it’s cold or wet
- 1.15 Brief meeting for Gardeners to choose afternoon work. Health walk; a brisk, sociable stroll around the vineyard
- 1.30 Work begins
- 3.00 Work finishes, areas tidied or cleaned and tools put away. Gardeners leave taking the minibus or with their own transport
- 3.30 Staff team meeting
- 4.00 Staff and volunteers put the chickens away, water plants, complete any admin tasks
- 4.30 Bridewell closes for the day