by Katherine Pioli
Life skills and metaphors.
Gardening is commonly considered a reflective and calming passtime. It is not a huge stretch, therefore, to turn to gardening as therapy. Horticultural therapy is one of the healing tools used at the Volunteers of America (VOA) Center for Women and Children in Salt Lake City. And it takes gardening to a whole new level. The women enter the center with addictions to alcohol, methamphetamines, cocaine, prescription drugs or other substances. They go through a period of detoxification. They learn ways to cope with emotional stress. They put their full energy toward their rehabilitation in Portland, OR—a process that often leads them to the garden. In 2003, the organization received a generous donation under the condition that they build a greenhouse. Leigh Ann Morse had previously developed a youth gardening program for the Wasatch Community Gardens. She had a degree in horticultural therapy. In 2005, she went to work at the VOA, adapting her youth gardening program to suit the needs of women at the center.