Grounding herself.

6th December 2019

The KEYS program (Keep Embracing Your Success) is one of AV’s most innovative programs offering more attentive and long-term residential support (12 months or longer) to the most vulnerable in our care. Young people, aged 12-16, typically enter into the program with a complex background of trauma, mental health challenges, substance use, or dealings with youth justice. The program is delivered in partnership with Monash Health, MIND Australia and DHHS. The team that support them, draw on a range of tools and techniques to promote emotional healing including sometimes, the use of a vegie patch as a form of refuge and healing.

Jessie*, a 15-year-old living in one of the KEYS homes, has autism and is affected by significant trauma from her past. Both of these factors, make it difficult to express and manage emotions.  Recently, after a tough day, she became verbally abusive to the staff and other housemates around her. She was struggling to cope; nothing seemed to be working.

One of AV’s specialist carers Andrew*, invited her out to the veggie patch for a change of scenery, and the two of them spent some time collecting crops and doing some weeding. In the quiet and non–confrontational space of the garden, Jessie’s mood began to settle. They were then able to talk about the difficult emotions that Jessie was experiencing.

The use of the outdoors as a therapeutic setting is well-supported in research. The effects of the natural world offer sensory relief, lowering blood pressure and heart rate. The KEYS house has implemented a dedicated gardening session every week, and since then, Jessie now voluntarily goes outside when she needs a moment to herself.

*Name and details have been changed to protect client and staff privacy.

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