Social and Therapeutic Horticulture
What is it?
Social and Therapeutic Horticulture 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 Social and Therapeutic Horticulture 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.
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 returned to previous employement or gone on to such jobs as garden centre assistants, self-employed gardening, apprenticeships in engineering, peer support work, retail, 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.
The feedback Gardeners share with us after leaving Bridewell is reviewed regularly by an independent professional. We see the same themes consistently reported:
- Bridewell creates a positive social context for those with mental health issues who either live alone and/or are feeling very isolated
- Bridewell’s safe, relaxed environment promotes developments in self-reported confidence and wellbeing
- Working at Bridewell provides a sense of structure and purpose
- Working at Bridewell allows people to start facing up to their own mental health issues
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