The effects of horticultural therapy on at-risk youth

A.C. Hollis, B. Bruno, N. Williams Awodeha
There is a major dilemma regarding mental health among youth today. Many are dealing with personal and home life challenges that result in feelings of hopelessness and despair. Consequently, individuals who are faced with these challenges often exhibit problems such as poor school attendance, behavioral issues, and low academic performance, leading to school dropouts, violence, and suicide. Schools are designed to ensure academic needs of students are met; however, their social/emotional needs are often overlooked. To address these problems, the lead researcher wrote a research grant for an afterschool horticultural therapy program to take place in two 15-week segments using a purposeful sample of 20 participants, starting in the fourth grade and finishing in fifth grade. By working to address the mental health issues and social/emotional needs of at-risk students in a rural community through horticultural therapy, our goal was to investigate how this therapeutic modality, centered on gardening and plant-based activities, impacts self-esteem, wellness, and resilience. Preliminary results from the pre-test yielded 10 individual profiles that were generated to describe their growth, incorporating quantitative and qualitative methods. Five themes were identified, after analyzing the qualitative data. At the end of the semester, participants described themselves as: 1) more responsible; 2) more knowledgeable; 3) more confident; 4) more creative; and 5) more curious/willing to try new things. Among the quantitative findings, resilience scores were in the “low” category for seven participants. On the self-esteem assessment, three participants scored “above normal”, five scored in the “normal” range and one scored “low”. One self-esteem assessment was incomplete. Regarding positive and negative experiences, eight participants scored in the “normal” range across all three subscales. One assessment was incomplete, one participant scored “low” on the negative subscale, one scored “high” on the positive subscale, and one scored “high” on the balance subscale.
Hollis, A.C., Bruno, B. and Williams Awodeha, N. (2021). The effects of horticultural therapy on at-risk youth. Acta Hortic. 1330, 87-98
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2021.1330.11
people-plant connection, social/emotional development, wellness, resilience, self-esteem, horticulture and human well-being, protective factors, rural, poverty, marginalized group

Acta Horticulturae