I met Michelle Parkins last May when I was teaching at the Chicago Botanic Gardens Healthcare Garden Design Certificate Program, and was immediately impressed by her commitment to her MLA research project on gardens for veterans with PTSD and other combat-related issues. Since then, Michelle has completed her thesis, which is available as a beautifully bound book at www.lulu.com/product/paperback/soft-touch-for-a-silent-voice. Below is the thesis abstract and a bit about Michelle, a veteran herself.
Michelle (that’s her on the left in the red jacket), in collaboration with Annie Kirk, principal at Red Bird Design and founder of the Acer Institute, recently created Therapeutic Gardens for Veterans groups on Linked In and Facebook. These groups are a “Collaboratory to advance therapeutic garden environments as an extension of support and care for veterans & their families.” I encourage everyone interested in this subject to join in on the conversation.
Here is what Michelle writes about herself and her interest in this subject:
My adventures in life have seemed to always evolve around the military; growing up an ‘Army Brat’ triggered my interest. My time in the Navy consisted of great travel overseas and the education I received both in and out of Navy was invaluable. Due to an injury, my time in the Navy was cut short, however my respect for my fellow veterans and active duty military has never gone away. As a veteran using the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system, I saw first hand the need and potential benefits for utilizing the outdoor garden spaces as VA hospitals and clinics. Although I have completed my Master’s of Landscape Architecture I plan to pursue the research and possible consultation of gardens for veterans.
Master’s Thesis: “Soft Touch For A Silent Voice: Therapeutic Gardens for Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” by Michelle Parkins
University of Oregon – Department of Landscape Architecture, December, 2011
As this stage of the project comes to completion the war in Afghanistan enters its tenth year. With the number of veterans and active duty personnel returning from war, in addition to other veterans, attention needs to be given to support these citizens with the best possible healing environments available. Developing the principles and key elements of a healing garden environment for United States veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) will aid in the healing and coping for the affected one-third of the service members returning from current wars (Tanielian , 2008). The objective of this project is to combine the information on veterans with PTSD and healing or therapeutic gardens to develop a list of key elements and design principles for healing garden environments located at Veteran Affairs Hospitals and clinics. The end result is a set of transferrable design principles for the outdoor healing environments not only for Veteran’s Affairs Hospitals and clinics across the United States, but possibly for military installations across the Unites States and the world. The compilation of these key elements or principles was partially completed through conversational interviews with horticultural therapists, a psychologist, a naturopathic physician, social workers, landscape architects specializing in healing gardens, the Trauma Healing Project Research Team and other professionals who work directly with trauma survivors focusing on veterans who have survived being exposed to military trauma. Attending PTSD group therapy sessions at the Roseburg, OR Veteran Affairs Hospital, extensive literature reviews and a veterans survey assisted in identifying and supporting these key elements and design principles.
Many thanks, Michelle! If you would like to contact Michelle, please leave a comment here and/or join either of the groups mentioned above.
For more information on restorative landscapes for veterans, see these past TLN Blog posts (click on the title for a live link to the post):
- Gardening Leave – One great answer to PTSD
- “Defiant Gardens” and other resources for veterans
- “Returning Home: The Veterans Garden Project,” by Steve Mitrione
- Veterans Day 2010- Memorials as healing landscapes
- Landscapes for Healing – Resources for veterans
- A Masters Thesis [by Brock Anderson] on healing gardens for veterans with PTSD