Walking Mountains hosts event on horticultural therapy on Tuesday | VailDaily.com

If you’re super into plants, this horticultural therapy event might be for you

IF YOU GO ... What: The Science Behind Horticultural Therapy When: Tuesday, Nov. 5, 6:30 p.m. Where: Walking Mountains Science Center, Avon Cost: Free, with a suggested $5 donation More information: Pre-registration is required for this event. To sign up, visit www.walkingmountains.org.

For centuries, people have known the rewarding experiences of tending and enjoying a garden, and thanks to modern science, horticultural therapy is one rehabilitative tool used by medical professionals today.

Join Walking Mountains Science Center and local certified horticultural therapist Patricia Esperon on Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 6:30 p.m. for an insightful evening of exploring the greater power of gardening as a therapeutic and rehabilitative tool in modern health care.    

While plant therapy has roots perhaps as old as human history itself, in the 19th century, the father of American psychiatry, Dr. Benjamin Rush, started officially documenting the positive effects of working in a garden for those with mental illness.

After World War II, horticultural therapy was an accepted and well-utilized technique in the rehabilitation of veterans. Since then, the practice and its potential for positively impacting mental and physical health have continued to expand.    

Horticultural therapy has been shown to improve memory, cognitive abilities, language skills and socialization. Physically, horticultural therapy has been shown to help strengthen muscles and improve coordination, balance and endurance. Even in a vocational setting, gardening has been shown to help build independence and improve problem-solving skills as well as improve an individual’s ability to follow directions.

The growth of horticultural therapy has resulted in the development of certifications and trainings that help develop skilled and effective providers. Along with producing skilled horticultural therapy providers, the growth of this technique has resulted in purposely designed therapeutic gardens. These therapeutic gardens are specifically designed to facilitate interactions with beneficial elements and are designed around specific goals such as healing, enabling or rehabilitation.

Humans have intuitively known that plant therapy can be key in the rehabilitation process, and modern science has yielded research supporting it.
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The event will cover the fundamental principles behind this technique and examples of programs that are actively changing people’s lives, including some in Eagle County. Guests will also learn what it takes to become a trained and certified horticultural therapy provider. Hands-on activities at the event will provide an opportunity to experience horticultural therapy in action. 

Patricia Esperon studied criminal justice and psychology, earning her B.S. in psychology. She is an Eagle County Master Gardener and holds a certificate in Horticultural Therapy from Colorado State University. She will complete her master’s in clinical counseling next summer. She is employed by the Vail Valley Salvation Army as the garden & greenhouse facility programs manager. She teaches individuals and groups about gardening and nutrition. Wellness and mental health have recently been added to the programming. Her intention is to practice counseling as an LPC through the horticultural therapy modality here in Eagle County and to train others to do so.