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Garden Group Helps Adolescents Develop Life Skills

Alta Behavioral Healthcare’s Garden Group is made up of adolescents from 12–15½ years of age, chronologically or by developmental maturity. The group is led by Sarah Macovitz, LSW.

Participants and their families learn practical skills and knowledge regarding food sustainability, environmental stewardship, plant pathology and botany, soil composition and ways to amend soil. They also learn rudimentary to advanced skills in homemade products such as preserving, canning, and making laundry soap and homemade bread. Additional lessons learned include caring, having pride in their community and the value of teamwork.

The therapeutic goal of the group is to develop life skills and coping skills related to the adolescents’ current mental health challenges — including anger management, anxiety, depression and disruptive behavior. Participants learn to follow rules and directions, practice patience, reduce stress and impulsive behavior, and work on methods to slow down their minds and focus. Positive reinforcement and praise helps them build self-esteem.

In addition to making their own lunches every day, at the end of each week participants bring something home to their families. At harvest time at the end of the season, their families reap the benefits of their hard work.