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Cultivating New Lives

An Ethnographic Pilot Study of Eco-therapy Provision for People with Alcohol-related Problems in Northern Ireland

Amelia-Roisin Seifert

Keywords: alcohol intervention; alcohol rehabilitation; community-based therapy; community gardening; eco-therapy; green care; Northern Ireland; social and therapeutic horticulture (STH); substance abuse

Humankind's relationship to, or place within, the non-human environment is a vast topic both existential and scientific, and is a rising concern in burgeoning subfields of anthropology. This paper offers a report on the findings of a pragmatic, practice-focused and policy-orientated ethnographic pilot study (Seifert et al. 2011). Following the observation of a gap in research in the dual areas of eco-therapy and non-medical alcohol interventions and rehabilitation in Northern Ireland, the pilot, conducted on behalf of Alcohol Research U.K., set out to locate and scope existing provisions of eco-therapy opportunities in Northern Ireland with particular recourse to interventions whose service users include people with a problematic alcohol-use background. Following the recommendations set out by various summary reports by anthropologists engaged in 'alcohology' (Gilbert 1991; Heath and Glasser 2004; Hunt and Barker 2001; Marshall et al. 2001; Weibel-Orlando 1989), public health more widely (for example, Hahn and Inhorn 2009), and eco-therapy in particular (Burls 2007; Milligan et al. 2004; Parr 2007), a multidisciplinary methodological approach was piloted as particularly relevant to a substantial further study reporting on the effectiveness of eco-therapy as a public-health intervention. An introduction to concepts surrounding eco-therapy precedes an illustration of two key eco-therapy project scenarios benefiting those with alcohol problems in Northern Ireland. The results of this brief analysis suggest both research-paradigmatic and practical directions that could advance the understanding and the effectiveness of this intervention in the future.

Affiliations

Seifert, Amelia-Roisin - Queen's University Belfast