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Ursula Casey, a project coordinator on a growing for wellbeing project in Somerset, recently completed Thrive’s Award in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture. Read more to find out how her experience shaped her practise.

Ursula came into Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) through her work volunteering for a small grassroots organisation in Somerset. There she works with adults who are experiencing mental ill health and have learning disabilities, and/or autism.

Prior to this she had a background in social care, working with clients with mental health problems and in the criminal justice system. She was then offered the opportunity to be the project coordinator for the charity, Wild Roots Field Project, which Ursula said, felt like a “dream combination” of her professional career and love of gardening.

Ursula had already completed a couple of Thrive’s free online courses, followed by the introductory blended course, but was interested in completing the Award as the next step.

I was attracted to the Award because it seemed to be very practical and everything I learned was directly applicable to my work.


Ursula said it took her a while to gain the confidence to apply but that doing some of the preparatory reading from the set texts helped.

I recommend reading the Horticultural Therapy Methods textbook to anyone considering applying. It got me excited for enrolling on the course and made me realise I already had existing knowledge from my own practice.


As part of the course, students are required to attend a two-day course and they have further support on Thrive’s online learning platform with guided reading activities. Ursula already had a good idea of what the main focus of her dissertation would be, so began to read around the subject

You can do as much or as little background reading as you want but if you’re not academically minded don’t’ be put off!


Once Ursula felt ready to start her report, she contacted her tutor to discuss her plans. The Award report needs to be completed over a 16-week period and during this time, students can access support from Thrive tutors and make use of three scheduled tutorials.

It was great to have a deadline to work towards with plenty of additional support given, like the tutorials to keep me focused.

- Ursula

Ursula has some sage advice on how to manage timescales “I highly recommend making time for citations and references while doing your background reading as they can take much longer than you’d expect. I also suggest starting your report in the winter, because everything speeds up so much in the spring with work!”

Ursula based her report on her own work, specifically a wellbeing project with a focus on mental health. She found it useful to examine the work she was already doing and to explain it in depth.

Completing the award was very validating. It showed me I was already doing good work intuitively, such as breaking down tasks to make them accessible for different people.


Ursula said the Award has boosted her confidence by underlining the quality of her work and affirming its robust structure. She feels it has also been invaluable to her applications for grant funding which she’d had no training on and found to be a bit of a “headache” to complete. The Award also gave her the confidence and correct terminology to apply for funding and she felt more at ease when discussing her organisation’s work with other professionals.

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Clients in the garden

Completing the award has also given Ursula a greater sense of job security because she now possesses a qualification alongside her experience and feels she can now more easily prove her transferable skills if she was to work for another organisation or go freelance.

I highly recommend the award to anyone who like me may feel they have come into Social and Therapeutic Horticulture through an unconventional route, or don’t have a medical background such as in Occupational Therapy.


To find out more about Thrive's Award in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture, go to https://www.thrive.org.uk/get-training/courses-and-workshops/award-in-social-and-therapeutic-horticulture-programme-development