Lessons Learned on Gardens Crew

Heather Hildebrant, LiCSW, Therapeutic Work Program Director

seed-planting in the Ranch greenhouse

One morning each week, I have the privilege of joining one of our work crews, rotating through them to witness the unique approaches each crew takes towards their therapeutic work. Recently, I had the pleasure of spending time with our Gardens Crew, assisting them with their seed-planting.

As a clinician, I’m aware of the benefits of horticulture therapy. I’m sure many of you reading this are familiar with the idea that gardening is good for the soul. Spending time outdoors, caring for something outside of oneself, achieving tangible tasks, and contributing to the community all aid to improve mood and self-esteem. Working alongside Ella, our talented Gardens Crew Manager, I gained a deeper appreciation for the profound metaphorical lessons gardening can provide. I am happy to share that appreciation with you.

The first step in preparing seeds is ensuring they are planted at the optimal time, just as our admissions team plays a crucial role in ensuring our residents are in the right place at the right time for their healing journey. Next, preparing the soil involves ensuring it has the right balance of moisture, sufficient aeration for growth, and proper depth for the seeds. Similarly, our program is structured to provide residents with not just therapeutic interventions or work programming, but the skills to help sustain a life of wellness, both while at the Ranch and beyond.

One invaluable lesson I learned from Ella is the importance of grounding seeds when planting them. This simple act communicates to the seed that it’s safe to begin its growth journey. Our community serves as a nurturing and grounding environment, where residents feel safe and supported to embark on their own journeys of personal growth.  During my time with the Gardens Crew, I witnessed a beautiful moment: a resident took the time to offer each seed a positive affirmation as they planted it, nurturing and encouraging its growth. It was a poignant reminder of the power of our community in fostering growth and resilience.

Finally, providing sunlight, water, and care are essential for allowing seeds to flourish. This, I believe, is truly a specialty of Spring Lake Ranch.  Our approach isn’t just about the hours spent on crew or in session with clinicians; it’s about each moment of life in our community, the literal and metaphorical food we provide our residents.

Seed-planting with our Gardens Crew was a powerful moment for me, as I considered the transformative journey our residents undergo at Spring Lake Ranch. Just as the residents on Gardens Crew worked hard to give each seed its best start, we strive to create an environment where individuals can grow and flourish.

CARF Accredited: Spring Lake Ranch programs are CARF accredited. The CARF accreditation signals our commitment to continually improving services, encouraging feedback, and serving the community.

Spring Lake Ranch is a member of the American Residential Treatment Association (ARTA). ARTA members are dedicated to providing extraordinary care to adults with mental illness.