Time being occupied and active

When we consider activity and occupation within STH, we are looking for meaningful activity, in that the outputs and tasks through with the therapeutic goal is delivered is meaningful and productive.

An STH Practitioner will not ask the client to do a task that is required in the garden without first assessing that it will be of some benefit to them and their own goals. The maintenance of a garden should never be considered more important than the therapeutical value the programme is designed to offer.

There is a useful distinction to be made between activities which are largely experiential and activities which are largely interactive.

  • Interactive activities refer to thing that we can do in nature where the activity itself involves shaping that nature. So, anything from a conservation activity, to constructing a willow hedge or bug hotel, to mowing the lawn, sowing seeds or planting up a container.
  • Experiential refers to activities in, or involving nature, but where we are not actively or directly shaping nature as part of that activity. So, nature appreciation activities, making art from fallen leaves, going for a walk in a park, such as walking in a garden, plant photography or any other activity that is enhanced because it takes place in nature and uses nature as a kind of biophilic backdrop.

Healing and restorative gardens are gardens that tend to promote experiential contact with nature. This is so because the focus of each of these spaces tends to be on peace, tranquillity, stress recovery, attention restoration and so on. Whereas therapeutic and horticultural therapy gardens tend to promote interactive contact with nature - the maintenance of the garden, by people who are receiving a physical, cognitive, psychological and, or social benefit from gardening, is most often a component of the design process.

However, all gardens should provide opportunities for both the experiential and the interactive, to a greater or lesser degree. In fact, all interactive connections with a garden have an experiential component.

To understand more about wellbeing benefits of activity and occupation, we look to the Model of Human Occupation (Kielhofner, 1980), a client‐centred conceptual model used for occupational therapy. It addresses why we engage in meaningful activities (occupations) and considers Volition (how people are motivated), Habituation (patterns and routines) and Performance Capacity (our ability to perform a behaviour).