Four Circles introduces young adults to the therapeutic benefits of gardening to enhance their recovery from addiction and co-occurring disorders.
At a time when young people are far from home battling their addictions, they can still get a taste of “home-grown.” At Four Circles Recovery Center, a state-of-the-art North Carolina substance abuse treatment program, a new project introduces young adults to the therapeutic benefits of gardening.
Four Circles utilizes an state of the art addiction treatment model that blends wilderness therapy with traditional addiction counseling at base. During their time at base, clients attend 12-Step meetings, participate in individual and group counseling, and develop aftercare and relapse prevention plans, as well as other therapeutic activities. They also have the opportunity to learn about horticulture and get hands-on experience in the drug rehabilitation program’s four vegetable and herb gardens.
“Gardening is inherently therapeutic and rich in metaphor,” said Elizabeth Mills, the logistical coordinator at Four Circles and the head of the garden project. “In many instances, the way the crops are doing reflects how clients are doing themselves. Working in the garden presents opportunities to draw metaphors that teach lessons about everyday life.”
In addition to producing fresh food that tastes good and promotes a healthy lifestyle, gardening helps clients learn skills they can use after wilderness rehab ends. As the group experiments with planting different crops, they’re encouraged to step outside their comfort zone, take chances and learn from their mistakes. Also, for many, it is a chance to engage in pro-social behaviors with the opportunity to contribute to the well-being of their group, not just themselves.
As any horticulturist knows, it takes a lot of work to maintain a garden. Gardening requires patience and delayed gratification while growers wait for their seedlings to emerge as the reward for their labor. Clients discover the value of hard work as well as the benefits of teamwork, tilling the soil and harvesting crops alongside their peers to lighten the load.
“The garden is a place for clients to get excited about life,” said Mills. “Caring for something and watching it flourish can be tremendously nurturing and confidence-building. It is also a real-life example of how taking care of something else is the best way to take care of yourself.”
Gardening engages all of the senses, including sight, sound, smell and touch. The physicality of the task combined with being connected to nature can be immensely healing, particularly for young men and women in recovery.
Environmental responsibility and self-sufficiency are other important themes, as clients grow their own food and learn how to compost, leaving minimal impact on the world around them.
“The gardening project has been an enriching experience for our clients,” said Mills. “They eat the produce as fast as we can grow it – and that’s the ultimate compliment for a gardener.”
Four Circles Recovery Center is committed to addressing the impact of addiction in every area of young people’s lives. Along with state-of-the-art clinical care, meditation, adventure trips and other therapeutic activities, the gardening project is one more way to introduce young people to the many blessings of life in recovery.