Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture 33.1 - 2023


Bonsai Life in Balance
Stephen Pack PhD

According to Wichrowski et al. (2005) horticultural therapy is a process in which gardening activities, plants, and closeness to nature present opportunity for therapy and rehabilitation programs. One form of horticulture not widely considered as a form of therapy is that of creating bonsai trees. Few research studies exist currently. However, Ochiai et al. (2017) investigated whether viewing bonsai afforded self-induced mental relaxation amongst a group of male patients with spinal cord injury. The participants reported feeling significantly more comfortable, relaxed, and natural when viewing bonsai compared with a control condition. POMS scores for vigour were significantly higher when viewing bonsai, and scores for global ‘total mood disturbance’, ‘tension-anxiety’, ‘depression’, ‘angerhostility’, and ‘fatigue’ were significantly lower when viewing bonsai. Using the same protocol Song et al. (2018) explored the therapeutic effects of bonsai for elderly people (aged 64-91 years) and demonstrated that viewing bonsai similarly induced physiological and psychological relaxation. Other studies have explored subjective experiences of creating bonsai. Hermann and Edwards (2021) demonstrated that for 255 skilled bonsai practitioners their practice provided meaningful healing qualities and promoted integral health (e.g., ecological, spiritual, and emotional awareness). Also, creativity, resilience, adaptability, and social, physical, and personal health improved. Hermann (2021), using bonsai lessons as a form of group therapy for 15 traumatised youths, demonstrated positive shifts in mental states. Creating bonsai represented positive metaphors for life, for “new beginnings” and “growing strong with it” (i.e., the bonsai) (p.83). Working on bonsai during therapy enabled the youths to speak about their troubles without feeling judged which helped them to move past traumatic experiences. Therefore, bonsai appears to offer participatory (e.g., pruning) and ornamental (e.g., viewing) therapeutic effects (e.g., improving mood state, flow states, physical and mental relaxation, enhanced quality of life) in formal recovery and rehabilitation contexts. However, research evidence remains sparse. Consequently, the current study sought to explore: 1) why and how people began bonsai as a hobby and/or profession, 2) whether bonsai provided therapeutic qualities, and 3) the experiences of caring for bonsai amongst amateur and professional growers.

Self-Regulation, Its Neuroscience Foundations and Horticultural Therapy: Growing the Connections
Lesley Fleming, MA, HTR, Maureen Bethel, DEC, BA, BEd, CAE, & Tasha Roberts

Self-regulation is a health challenge experienced by individuals and populations across the lifespan that can impact relationships, safety of the individual and community, and ability to function in society. Challenges to self-regulation manifest in many ways based on an individual’s neurodiversity. The neuroscience foundations of self-regulation are complex and play an important role in human behavior. Strategies that can effectively address and treat self-regulation challenges are in demand because of the variety of populations exhibiting dysregulation. Horticultural therapy, a modality that can be delivered as treatment, less formalized therapeutic intervention, or recreation is being used across corrections, addictions, mental health, pediatric and other populations where self-regulation is a challenge. Understanding self-regulation, neuroscience connections to self-regulation, and applications of horticultural therapy can shed light on this topic which has limited literature within the profession.

Horticultural Therapy Health Interventions with Female Survivors of Human Trafficking: Program Models

Zuzana Poláčková MS, MEd, Lesley Fleming MA, HTR, Joanna Brown, Heather Kelejian

Human trafficking is a growing issue in society, with numbers continuing to expand exponentially. Part of a larger health issue of trauma, in a field dealing with wide-ranging causes of trauma, this paper focuses on female survivors of human trafficking (FSHT) and a specific health intervention of horticultural therapy now being introduced into therapeutic services for this population. Horticultural therapy, a recognized modality within therapeutic and medical communities, uses plant and gardening activities delivered by trained therapists, in both formalized treatment processes and less formal interventions to address the multi-faceted complexities of this health and human crisis which includes sexual abuse, violence, physical harm and psychological trauma.

To date applications of horticultural therapy for FSHT have been limited. This paper will provide background information and applications of horticultural therapy for female survivors of human trafficking. Informing health care professionals and those working in the field of human trafficking about this health modality will expand its applications, so that more services are available to women surviving human trafficking to aid in their recovery and healing.

Horticultural Therapy Activities for Transplant Patients

Monica C. Moscovici, BS

With the consistently increasing number of transplant patients in hospital and medical settings, providing clinically relevant, engaging Horticultural Therapy activities for this growing population has become necessary. An increase in literature and analysis of such activities would be beneficial and timely for the creation of clinical practice guidelines in this specified subfield of the profession. Here is one such analysis of a sleep pouch activity along with specific alternate variations for interest, ability and clinical goals respectively. Special considerations, knowledge and experience pertaining to materials, instructions, budgeting and contraindications (along with participation encouragement tips) are included based on initial trials with this activity.

Case Study: Maxine

Yin-Yan Yeung PhD, Li-Jung Lin PhD

The case study is a Taiwanese elderly female with low motivation due to frontal lobe damage who participated in six sessions of horticultural therapy that addressed her low motivation, low self-efficacy, reluctance to drink water, and passivity in social interaction. Evaluations one week pre and one week post by both the client and staff reflect the client’s enhanced self-efficacy in daily life coping and motivation. The client expressed subjective increased connectedness with others and connectedness with nature. The case study discusses the mixed approach of individual and group treatment that has fit the needs of the client in developing independence in tasks while also achieving improved social integration.