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After two years of significant social separation, the power of gardening to bring people together is needed more than ever.

Conversation is the soundtrack of our gardens. Connecting people is an integral dimension to Thrive’s work, emphasised by the process we use being called Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH).

The way gardening sessions are set-up is deliberately collaborative.

Client gardeners work in small groups with horticultural therapy staff and volunteers, and in the process improve interpersonal skills, teamwork and build relationships.

Modelling behaviour

Working alongside someone in a garden on a shared task is less socially pressured than other settings and helps break down barriers.

Some clients may have lost basic social skills due to disability, injury or illness. Being in a group provides the opportunity for the STH practitioner to model behaviour which can be observed and learnt, such as taking turns, listening and sharing.

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Conversation is the soundtrack of Thrive's gardens. Photo Layton Thompson/Thrive

Participating in a group can also be encouraging for those who are struggling with life’s difficulties, offering a chance to see how others with similar challenges cope and improve their situations.

Knowing you are not the only one facing a particular predicament can give a sense of perspective and help get through a tough period.

The end results of gardening enable other ways to connect with people.

Client gardeners take vegetables and flowers they have grown home for family and friends. Sharing these valued products of their work bolsters self-esteem.

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STH offers plenty of opportunities for social interaction. Photo: Miriam Sherdian/Thrive

Supportive

Many gardens are inherently positive places, offering the key therapeutic benefit of time in nature. Thrive’s gardens are safe and supportive spaces that can aid recovery and healing.

For people with mental ill health, the gardens are places of respite where stigmas about mental health are absent, and everyone is treated as an individual with value.

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Tea breaks are important times of social connection. This one was pre-Covid. Photo: Charlie Garner/Thrive

But the occasions when the gardening stops are no less important. Tea and lunch breaks are times to share, discuss, enjoy and laugh. In the process, speech and language skills improve and so does confidence.

With physical and mental health benefits as well, Social and Therapeutic Horticulture is a proven holistic way to improve quality of life.

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