Greencare is an umbrella term which is now being used to cover both traditional social and horticultural therapy, and newer approaches such as animal-assisted therapy, ecotherapy, care farms, forest schools, and the "green gym". There are many points of similarity, and there is much potential overlap, between greencare and the PIE approach; after all, the "built environment" and the "grown environment" are not so far apart.
Both the 'green' and the 'built' environment can create - or be used to create - what we have called 'social spaces' and opportunities to interact with others in new ways, and taken on new roles, however explicit and obvious or implicit and subtle those changes may be. (For some examples of the subtlety of spaces, and some useful vocabulary to identify such spaces, see the Boex twin's article on well-being through design, in the Library.)
Both the greencare and the PIE approach attempt to use aspects of the physical environment to encourage and enhance a sense of belonging and well-being - and so to side step some of the difficulties in engaging emotionally that some community members otherwise face. There is some value in greencare for those in what we call the 'pre-contemplative' stage of personal growth; and greencare is often particularly effective for those who do wish to make changes in their life, but still find a close personal relationship with any human very threatening.
In many cases, PIEs will use elements of the 'green' environment in PIEs as an add-on to an existing service, and so they are not always identified as greencare as such; and in the original accounts of a PIE, making use of the surrounding environment, as well as the immediate 'built' environment of the service was overlooked (See: "Is the PIE evolving?" for an account of this development in the thinking) .
For a useful presentation on the value of greencare - here used as part of a therapeutic community approach to working with personality disorder (as so many homelessness services in fact do) - see the video presentation to the UK Royal College of Psychiatrists, which gives both an introduction to the subject, and also to Rex Haigh - a PIELink member, and co-author of the paper that first coined the term 'PIE'. (NB: this video currently unavailable).
Evidence for greencare benefits
Despite their immediate and intuitive appeal, both greencare and PIEs have struggled in the past to provide a conveniently simple evidence base for their effectiveness, by virtue of the unsuitability of such broad, flexible and holistic packages for more narrowly positivistic research. Or equally, we might say that these approaches challenge the unsuitability of narrowly positivistic research traditions for such more holistic approaches to health.
Nevertheless, there has been extensive and serious interest in greencare as a research field, and there is a growing evidence base to confirm the health benefits. The UK Royal college of Physicians Richard Thompson, recently gave a talk to Thrive UK on the healthcare benefits of gardening, linked here. And Natural England have published a commissioned report - "A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care". This research seeks to explore the issues of complexity in research here, and sets out the steps required to enable a greater number of nature-based interventions to be commissioned in mental health care.
Much of this research currently comes from Europe and North America. But there are now research groups, at, for example, the Universities of Nottingham, Essex and Exeter. For an outline of this research, see the Exeter University Green exercise.
There is also a useful conceptual mapping of researchable and researched interactions between the multiplicity, by Exeter's ECEHH.
Greens in a PIE
We will be populating this area with some further examples of implicit greencare approaches adding to the PIE framework over the coming weeks.
Examples in PIE practice
We will be populating this area with some examples of greencare in the next few weeks
"Top doctor back garden gym idea" BBC news report
Greencare Research: a presentation by Jo Sempik & Rachel Bragg
'Research catalogue'; Care farming UK's listing of research on health impact and uptake of greencare.
Please note: the links below do not seem to be working, and may have been deleted on the sites where they appeared; we are attempting to rebuild/re-source them currently.