Social services in farm settings2020-08-14
How could farm-based social services support and promote health and well-being? This is the focus of the doctoral thesis “Nature-Based Interventions in Social Work: A Study of Farm-Based Social Services” by Jenny Höglund, who defended her doctoral thesis at Karlstad University earlier this summer.
Jenny Höglund has studied nature-based interventions aimed at supporting and developing the participants’ resources and health with focus on working life and independence. The interventions were aimed at activities for people with disabilities or work-related rehabilitation for people with mental illness.
“The aim of my thesis has been to describe and analyse how social services located in farm settings with animals are framed, as well as identifying what organisers/supervisors and participants hold as valuable and meaningful in a selection of services.”
Nature-based interventions have previously raised interest in countries like Norway, the Netherlands and the UK. However, in Sweden there has been a lack of knowledge about the existence and daily practice of the interventions from the supervisors’ and the participants’ perspectives. Jenny Höglund has therefore studied how it actually works, at the same time as she argues that there is a need for quality assurance similar to the one in Norway. This type of quality assurance would allow organisers and supervisors to gain more knowledge on how to guide the participants.
Through interviews with supervisors and participants, Jenny Höglund has analysed what makes social services in farm settings an intervention that can be used to promote the participants’ motivation.
“From the participant’s perspective, it is largely about self-determination. Partly when it comes to matching interventions, but also in relation to not being controlled at detail level. The interaction between environment, activity and the conditions under which the participants do things is also important. It is a constant balancing act between structure where they feel a sense of belonging, and individual room to act within certain limits. This is something that has been evident in many of the interviews, that social services are not as easy as having all participants doing the same thing. It is always important to offer individual support so that work can take place on the individual’s terms. It is simply not enough to add an environment and activities that are assumed to be meaningful”, says Jenny Höglund.
Animals that help
Another positive aspect of farm settings is the animals. The contact with the animals becomes a form of help hand for the participants, a social catalyst, when it comes to having something to talk about with the other participants. Those who are not comfortable in social environments find support and comfort in the animals instead.
Working with nature-based interventions require effort, it is not enough to simply place people in a farm setting, Jenny Höglund explains. Work needs to be followed up and that may not suit everyone, but can result in positive and motivating effects that make it easier for people to return to working life, for example.
Jenny Höglund argues that this type of intervention may be of use to other types of groups as well. In her future studies, she wants to focus on interventions in social work that aim to combine health-promoting elements with the framework of work.
Jenny Höglund defended her doctoral thesis in Social Work at Karlstad University on 11 June 2020. She has been part of the Graduate School on Sustainable Societal Transformation.