How Can We Help an Anxious or Restless Child Focus on Therapy? Go Outside!

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Maxine McClaskey Therapy Garden Proves Useful Tool for Treatment

John Muir was on to something when he mused, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread; places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

Recently, an 11-year-old client of ours had something in common with John Muir — she needed a place to heal.“Normally what I would do is take the child into my office and get them acclimated,” said therapist Kate McHugh. “But her anxiety was too high for that.“ So, McHugh got creative.

“We came out to the Therapy Garden and she instantly felt comfortable.”

It’s a tactic Children’s Center therapists have been employing since the early days in our previous Vancouver office. There, therapists often took children on walks to a nearby park. They found being outside helped children relax, open up, or burn off energy so they could focus on treatment.

“She felt like she could be a kid out here — instead of being a patient in my office.”

Today, children and therapists find refuge in the private sanctuary of the Maxine McClaskey Therapy Garden, located in the courtyard of the Marilyn Moyer building.

The connection between nature and mental health is gaining attention far beyond Clark County with studies and scholarly articles popping up recently from Stanford and institutions in Germany, Finland, Japan, and the U.K. We’re grateful to be able to respond to our clients’ needs with unique tools like the Therapy Garden.

“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to work in such a beautiful space, and to provide more than just a room and a clinician for these children,” said McHugh.

What makes a therapy garden special?

The space was designed to facilitate treatment, and that intention is evident in details both large and small. The winding path forms a figure-of-eight pattern allowing children to move continuously in an uninterrupted flow. Whimsical metal statues feature interactive magnetic pieces to engage curious hands. Pairs of benches position children and therapists perpendicular to each other, giving them a flexible space to work. The newest installment: custom-crafted stepping stones
inscribed with inspirational words chosen by our therapists.

What’s in a name?

In addition to being an active philanthropist Maxine McClaskey was an avid gardener. The Tod and Maxine McClaskey Foundation contributed generously to the construction of our new facility — and naming the garden in honor of Maxine was a natural fit.


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