Growing Better Lives

Green Therapies Research

This is a preliminary project which aimed to gather information to  describe and explore the various aspects of Greencare in order to evaluate the current services and provide a basis for future research questions.

The Greencare therapy:  a range of activities in an environment that aims to promote physical, mental, social and spiritual wellbeing through contact with nature and engaging as a community. The weekly sessions, based in our Mongolian-style yurt use techniques from therapeutic horticulture, care farming, animal assisted therapy and other nature-based approaches .  The weekly sessions involve:

  • Arriving in time for a simple lunch (provided by the project and often including home grown items)
  • Formal ‘check-in’: sitting in a circle, all members and staff give a brief update of how they have been feeling since the last group, and any other issues of particular significance.
  • Agreement of activities. Usually a range of different Greencare activities are available and members and staff participate in minimum-size groups of three.
  • Formal ‘check-out’: again in a circle, all members and staff say how they are now feeling.


We carried out three initial discussion groups conducted with service users (19 in total) which were audio recorded and written up. Qualitative analysis extracting content and themes was carried out by a supervised group of assistant psychologists. The main themes that emerged were grouped into three areas:Green Therapies

1. Therapeutic benefits of Greencare
  • Therapeutic in its own right by addressing issues that aren’t typically focused on in NHS services such as enhancing social skills, allowing people to re-connect and build relationships by working together as a team.
  • Alongside other therapy:one intended purpose of Greencare was to offer a space for clients to counter tense, anxious feelings experienced in therapy at hospital; it provides a balance and an alternative environment.
  • Emotional state: Services users generally felt better after a Greencare session, that it produced a positive effect on mood. Greencare was seen as offering a release from stressful and difficult emotions and enabled people to calm down and lower the agitation.
 2. The Environment
  • Being a natural environment:overwhelming belief that the environment in which Greencare was conducted was very important – the site was associated with being natural and peaceful; a place of tranquillity
  • Not a clinical setting:a ‘non-hospital’ setting, away from the stigma associated with being in a mental health hospital, and in a ‘non-judgemental’ setting


3. The Activities
  • The different activities: Varied activities are undertaken: gardening being the most prevalent or other outdoor work on the environmental centre sitebut the other activities (such as cooking and craft work) were also enjoyed (particularly in bad weather!).
  • How activities are chosen: Having the space and freedom to choose what to do is an important aspect of Greencare. Allowing choice enables everyone to be involved – even those who dislike ‘gardening’
  • Sharing lunch: Generally people enjoyed the sharing of lunch at the start of Greencare and felt it enhanced their experience of socialising.
  • Travelling to the yurt: Most service users attend Greencare following sessions at Upton Park Hospital, a distance of just over five miles and taking approximately 15 minutes. Often issues that arise around organising all the details of transport (using taxis, service user cars) but in many cases the travel was identified as part of therapy with the ‘chance to regroup’ suggests the ‘break’ from the hospital setting is viewed as being able to physically leave any negativity experienced during therapy.


For more detail about the study and its findings click here to download the research   handout Greencare research handout

Or to view the research poster click here Greencare research poster

Authors: Vanessa Jones, Sangita Maurya  and Rex Haigh (2014)