February 17, 2020
One of the most difficult things a person or family can experience is the traumatic loss of a loved one. A traumatic loss is unexpected, violent, or involves a person who should not yet die, like a child. For people who experience these losses, traditional therapy may be inadequate: the therapist may not understand the depth of the person’s pain, the setting may be too sterile, and there may be a push toward try psychotropic medications rather than nonmedical alternatives.
Dr. Joanne Cacciatore - senior sustainability scholar in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and associate professor in the School of Social Work – is developing a new approach. Her paper, Evaluating care farming as a means to care for those in trauma and grief, outlines her approach. Dr. Cacciatore operates the Selah Carefarm - C.A.R.E. stands for counseling, advocacy, research and education - which takes people into nature to hang out with and care for animals. Researchers know that engagement with nature has positive physiological effects. Even more, contact with animals lowers stress hormones (cortisol), heart rate, and blood pressure. Greencare therapy, of which care farming is an example, facilitates individuals’ interactions with nature with the intent of providing a health benefit.