Psychiatric Patients

It began as a modest investment of space and money an unused, raise outdoor planter bed at UCLA’s Steward and Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital and $350 worth of plants, soil and gardening tools. But, with careful planning by a multidisciplinary team, the 2.5 foot by 10 foot plot yield a popular therapeutic tool for some of the hospital’s inpatients and produce an important piece of research.

It all began in the fall of 2014, when Resnick patients told hospital staff members they long for more programs outside. A multidisciplinary team of occupational therapists (Susie Clinton, Aimee Levine Dickman and Nancy Wicks), nurses and social workers at Resnick began working on the idea of creating a therapeutic garden, all the while eyeing that neglect raise bed on the hospital’s deck.

The range of diagnoses

Patients were involve from the start, even helping staff members choose plants flowers; so succulents and non toxic herbs that they help place in the garden bed in the spring of 2015. The research project ran from July 2017 to February 2018. Over that period, 25 in-patients were enroll in the study. The participants represent a range of diagnoses; so the most common of which were major depression and anxiety disorders.

Once a week, after a short preparation session; patients and staff went into the garden and work together, planting, turning the soil, watering and harvesting flowers and herbs. After their time in the garden; so each patient was interview once by Ayala or a third study author, Ariel Schneider. Then a social worker at the hospital; so she now works as a therapist in Santa Barbara offering therapeutic horticulture; so to Cottage Hospital inpatient and intensive outpatient program participants.

Another patient said: They did something productive. I felt good. It was a way of getting my mind off my problems. Still another observed: they don’t feel so confined. Being at one with nature, it kinds of brings a sense of peace; also that’s why I’m more motivate to go outside and be interactive.

Small financial investment

Schneider said she had “a hunch that the patients were getting something from the group” as they conduct the interviews. “The quotes from the patients were so poignant they was pleasantly surprise and excite to hear what they had to say. Pieters said she very impress by the garden’s impact, especially for a relatively small financial investment.

These are patients who are sick in a deep way,” she said, adding the extent of their social interaction around the garden was what stood out the most for her. These patients typically feel alienate and isolate. But being outside and gardening, the patients had a sense of being with others and a very strong sense of belonging.

With the garden therapy program still going strong, there are plans to expand it to other units in the hospital and to do additional research. Clinton and Wick continue to run the garden group each week for patients and are in the process of expanding the garden to include more planters. Results of the research project, head by Pieters and titled “Gardening on a Psychiatric Inpatient Unit: Cultivating Recovery,” were publish last fall in the Archives of Psychiatric Nursing.