Sowing seeds for regaining sound mental health

Study by UCLA nursing faculty shows gardening had therapeutic effects for psychiatric patients
Huibrie Pieters and Nancy Wicks
Huibrie Pieters, left, and Nancy Wicks work in the garden at the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA.

Media Contact

Laura Perry
310-794-4022

It began as a modest investment of space and money — an unused, raised outdoor planter bed at UCLA's Stewart and Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital and $350 worth of plants, soil and gardening tools.

But, with careful planning by a multidisciplinary team, the 2 1/2-foot by 10-foot plot yielded a popular therapeutic tool for some of the hospital's inpatients and produced an important piece of research.

While researchers had studied the therapeutic effects of gardening and other nature-related activities on people with mental illness in residential care facilities or in outpatient settings, no one had evaluated garden therapy for adults in an inpatient psychiatric hospital.

"It's important to note that this is the first time gardening has been studied in an inpatient setting," said Huibrie Pieters, an associate professor in the UCLA School of Nursing who headed the project.

It all began in the fall of 2014, when Resnick patients told hospital staff members they longed for more programs outside. A multidisciplinary team of occupational therapists (Susie Clinton, Aimee Levine Dickman and Nancy Wicks), nurses and social workers at Resnick began working on the idea of creating a therapeutic garden, all the while eyeing that neglected raised bed on the hospital's deck.

Read the story on UCLA School of Nursing website.