Case Study: Addiction Services

“Apart from the gardening and horticultural experience this project has given the many clients who have been here, for me, the therapeutic healing it has provided has been the most amazing thing to watch.” – Elaine Kehoe, Clinical Nurse Manager, St Francis Farm Detox Unit

Merchants Quay Ireland is a national voluntary organisation that helps people who are homeless and caught in addiction. Of their many services provided, St Francis Farm Detox and Rehabilitation Centre is located on a working farm. It offers residential programmes aimed at providing individual and group rehabilitation therapy, along with practical skills training and education, all within a tranquil, rural setting.

Garden Design

In 2017 Dee Sewell was invited to work with clients as they entered the detox unit, designing a garden that they could work and relax in before they moved to rehabilitation. Initially funded as a community education project with the Education Training Board (ETB) and then funded by the local Development Partnership alongside further ETB training, the outcomes have proved very successful.

St Francis Farm Featured in Irish Garden Magazine 2018
St Francis Farm Featured in Irish Garden Magazine 2018

St Francis Farm Detox Centre 2017-2018

St Francis Farm 2017 to 2018

The Brief

The primary objective was to design a garden that service users could work in during the weekends when no activities were planned. As funding permitted, for a couple of hours each week Dee worked with groups of up to nine people that changed weekly, co-creating a space that the current and future service users could potter around in.


To provide a snapshot, one group of nine men and women were surveyed at the start and finish of their detoxification period.

Seven out of the nine said that working in the garden made them think they might do something new in the future (work opportunities/further education). Feedback included:

“I’d love to go back and sit my leaving cert & hopefully go onto college.”

“The gardener doing it was talking about going back to college as a mature student which kind of made me think you are never too old to do it.”

“Opened my mind to new opportunities.”


Further comments can be seen below:

St Francis Farm Horticultural Therapy Feedback

Setting Goals and Objectives

Starting with a blank canvas, and utilising the many undervalued skills that service users can bring to a garden landscape such as stonework, carpentry, painting or general gardening skills, the goals and objectives initially set have been reached and exceeded.

Providing an additional calm space where people can reconnect with nature has helped with their mental health and healing overall, as can be evidenced from their feedback.

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