At Common Ground, we’re all celebrating the start of spring. It’s a season that symbolizes new opportunities and new seasons for many of our clients, and we’re celebrate that alongside them.
This year, our team at Common Ground Red Wing is celebrating spring and summer with a new opportunity for clients: a Recovery Garden.
Behind our offices in Red Wing is a small backyard where grass doesn’t grow. So instead of accepting the brown, uninspiring scene, the Red Wing team decided to create a raised garden bed for clients to plant vegetables and flowers as a therapeutic activity and way to build community.
We sat down with one of our substance abuse counselors, Vivian Nordland, to learn more about how the recovery garden is making an impact on our clients.
Here’s what she had to say:
What is the Common Ground recovery garden?
“The Common Ground recovery garden is a vegetable and flower garden that was built and prepared by staff and clients to serve as a therapeutic community garden. Gardens benefit clients by giving them the opportunity to engage with nature in a way that promotes recovery and healing.”
How is the garden used in groups?
“Gardening is inherently therapeutic and rich in metaphor. In many instances, the way the plants or flowers are doing reflects how the clients are doing themselves. Clients were encouraged to plant the 'seeds of success' in the garden; setting an intention with each seed planted that would benefit their personal growth and recovery.
Working in the garden is also a great way to connect with others as well as practice mindfulness, as gardening engages all five senses and connects clients to nature. Each client utilizes their individual strengths and unique talents to contribute to the garden. In future sessions, the clients are planning to harness their creativity by painting the flower beds with positive images and messages.”
What recovery lessons can be learned through the garden?
“There are many similarities between gardening and recovery. For instance, when you garden, you need to get to the root of the weed to really make a difference. If you just "pluck" the weed from the surface or try to ignore it, it will flourish below and become more and more difficult to manage. It's easy for clients to see parallels in the progress of the garden and their own recovery.
For example, if you take an unhealthy plant from an environment where it was not getting the nutrients it needed to thrive and relocate it to an area with rich soil and the right amount of sunshine, water, etc., it will flourish. However, if you then take that now-healthy, strong plant and put it back into an old, unhealthy environment, it will start to wither again.
Through gardening, clients have an opportunity to learn how to be a caretaker through discovery and risk-taking, (which builds resiliency in the brain), with minimal consequences. Gardening requires patience and delayed gratification while waiting for the seeds to mature and grow. Caring for something and watching it flourish can be a very rewarding experience, and it can help build confidence in our clients.”
According to Vivian, the garden is available to be enjoyed by current clients and alumni alike.
“It's amazing to see how the clients have started to make the garden their own,” Vivian says. “They have dedicated a lot of their own time and energy outside of group to care for it and are constantly problem-solving and coming up with great ideas on how to improve it. We can't wait to see what the garden looks like by the end of the summer!”
We’ll be reporting on the progress of our Recovery Garden throughout the summer. Check back for updates or subscribe to our newsletter!
Common Ground provides gender-specific outpatient treatment in Red Wing, MN and across Goodhue County. Contact us today.