Our Therapy Garden
At Garrett Counseling, our mission is to provide our clients with exceptional mental health care. One of the tools we utilize to create a welcoming environment for healing and growth is our therapy garden at our Jacksonville, Alabama location.
Garrett Counseling’s owner/director, Dr. Ashley Garrett, PhD, LPCS, RPTS, NCC, has always had an appreciation for flowers and gardens. Her appreciation for nature began as a child when she would spend time with her grandfather in his gardens. Now as an adult, she enjoys keeping fresh cut flowers around her home and office. This appreciation for nature is what eventually led her to create our therapy garden in Jacksonville.
Garrett Counseling began the process of brainstorming for the garden with garden designer Bob Elam. We drew inspiration from Dr. Ashley Garrett’s travels, as well as garden designers such as Oudolf and Kinsbury. We work alongside Bob Elam and Quint Davis from Davis Landscaping each year to enhance the garden by adding new plants and replacing those that have died. In the most recent season, the therapy garden saw the addition of a small rose garden as well as a variety of bulbs on the external fence. Upcoming plans include the expansion of our seasonal bulbs and the addition of an herb garden for sensory work in therapy.
How is it Used?
Our therapy garden in Jacksonville, Alabama, is primarily used for therapy with our clients and for counselor renewal between their sessions. However, we do provide a variety of free community events in the garden throughout the year, including yoga and meditation groups. We also host continuing education training sessions for counselors throughout the southeast on incorporating nature into therapy.
Therapy Garden’s Benefits
To understand the benefits of our therapy garden in Jacksonville, Alabama, we asked our counselors and garden designer Bob Elam to share their perspectives:
For me, the benefit has been knowing we provide a space for our counselors to get out of the office and be in nature. It brings me such pride to know that they have a place to escape and regulate themselves as they care for our community. For me, personally, the garden is a place of refuge. You will often find me on the weekend trimming that rosebush that trellises the fence or pulling weeds. Once the sun starts to go down, I will relax on the swing with a friend or even nap on a blanket in the grass. Those moments are meaningful because they allow me to slow down and reflect on not just the work we do at Garrett Counseling, but the work I am doing in my own life toward my own mental wellness.
I appreciate the therapy garden as it benefits both the client and the therapist. For the client, it allows for a more interactive sensory experience. The garden offers them the opportunity to practice mindfulness by engaging in what they see, hear, touch, and smell. For the therapist, the garden allows time away from the office making me more present with my clients.
The therapy garden is an aid in the therapeutic process as it provides a place of healing for clients to practice grounding and learn about the changing of seasons and our shifts in mood. It helps me as a therapist to find beauty in the seasons, be a part of something bigger, and have a place for movement.
I love having the therapy garden for my clients. It allows them to engage in the benefits of being outside and provides a holistic atmosphere for strengthening their Central Nervous System.
I use the therapy garden as a way to establish a calm, relaxed environment where clients can feel comfortable to open up and share. The garden as a whole is a great big mindfulness activity where clients as well therapists can relax and become more self aware of their thoughts and feelings
The green space being located within a very busy vehicular/pedestrian access area to a high school and elementary school provides a visual pause and mental break for all those passing by it. The Garrett Counseling garden is much more than a collection of plantings and construction materials, it is a Life garden. Every time I pass by, gazing at this beautiful garden and seeing the activity within the garden, I know that my chosen vocation of landscape design has been a worthwhile endeavor.
The garden provides a natural, welcoming space for clients and counselors to find a connection to themselves and to the earth. This connection can help clients take a mental break and practice nonjudgmental mindfulness. For children, the garden transforms into an imaginary kitchen, rocket ship lab, or adventurous hiking trail, enhancing the play therapy experience.
Therapy Garden Honors
Our therapy garden in Jacksonville, Alabama is the recipient of several honors:
Calhoun County Beautification Award (2017)
Jacksonville Garden Club Beautification Award
Certified Wildlife Garden: Certifying our therapy garden with the National Wildlife Federation means that our garden offers wildlife food, water, cover, and places to raise their young. It also means that we practice sustainable practices to maintain our garden. You can learn more about certified wildlife habitats here.
Garden Lover’s Resources
Our favorite plant recommendations for home gardens are Russian Sage and Blackeyed Susans. Both of these are easy to grow, require little maintenance, and are perfect to cut and keep in vases around your home. These plants also have beautiful deadheads that you can leave in your garden until after winter, which provides depth to your garden through the cold season.
Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf – This is a documentary about landscape designer, Piet Oudolf.
The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate―Discoveries from A Secret World (The Mysteries of Nature, 1) – This book by Peter Wohllenben explores how trees are like human families.
Making the Most of Shade: How to Plan, Plant, and Grow a Fabulous Garden that Lightens up the Shadows – This book by Larry Hodgson details all the aspects of shade gardening from the basics to problem solving once you’ve gotten started.
A Year of Forest School: Outdoor Play and Skill-building Fun for Every Season – This book by Jane Worroll and Peter Houghton offers ideas to encourage outdoor play in every season.