Efficacy of a Farm-Based Therapeutic Community

Rural. Residential. Recovery based. These are the 3 Rs of the Eli’s Place model.  It’s a place that helps young adults with serious mental health challenges (such as major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other serious mental health challenges) to rebuild and regain their lives.

This recovery-based model offers a full continuum of individualized therapeutic services that includes sessions with dedicated clinicians, development of life skills, the benefits of communal living and extends transitional support for clients when they are ready to return to their community and live more independently. This farm-based therapeutic community will provide clients with structured work and training programs, a variety of therapy modalities, addictions treatment, and therapeutic recreation.

Participants will work with individual advisor teams to create a program that will focus on each resident’s abilities despite any limitations of illness. Being engaged in a rural therapeutic community challenges residents in a supportive environment to develop life skills in the areas of problem solving, resilience, reciprocal relationships, communication, empowerment, and self-esteem.  Active participation fosters acceptance of oneself and respect for others; the approach is inclusive yet individualized. The purpose is to engage each individual at their own pace and level of comfort.  One of our primary goals is to reduce or eliminate hospital admissions and self-harm while achieving a path towards functional living. As residents take responsibility for themselves and their behaviours, they learn to put effort into all aspects of life. Living in a rural setting allows residents to gain an appreciation for the natural world and what it can teach. Through organic gardening, and other activities such as honey and maple syrup production, there will be opportunities to plant, grow, harvest, prepare and serve nutritious meals.

The development of core life skills may also extend to specific skills that can be learned in a farm-based therapeutic community setting such as obtaining a food handling license, or more generally, learning to prepare meals, to bake or to make preserves.  Animal care can help teach our clients compassion, patience and a deeper understanding of responsibility. Various art and music based therapies foster creative growth and expression; participants will enjoy exploring new skills and areas of interest and creativity.

We know there is a gap in the care of young adults with serious mental illness: there are no residential treatment facilities in Canada specifically designed for the needs of young adults with a primary diagnosis of a serious mental illness. After researching numerous long-term residential treatment and transition farms around the world, we decided to model our initiative after Gould Farm, a one hundred and eight-year-old residential treatment farm in Monterey, Massachusetts, that offers exceptional documented outcome studies. At the Gould Farm the emphasis is on healing. Jane Linsley has been working in the field of mental health and addictions for over 30 years and Clinical Director of the team at Gould Farm since 2006. In her words:

The broad strokes of recovery at Gould Farm encompass purposeful work and service, relationship with self and others in a community that fosters recovery and a sense of possibility.   The Farm itself enables a sense of connection with place and nature. Our therapeutic model provides the time and space for an individual to include their own experience and voice in creating a narrative of what has happened that brings them to this moment in time. Through these beliefs, our staff and guests collaborate to explore strengths and abilities to re-engage with a life of meaning beyond a diagnosis or crisis.

Eli’s Place will be located in a beautiful rural setting just outside of Toronto. Working with the clients we will help them to develop the skills necessary to protect them from the very real threat of suicide and self-harm.  Our model aims to help young adults with mental illnesses look beyond mere survival – it encourages them to move forward with positivity and to develop the resilience required to live with mental illness. Our model supports the view that clients can move forward with their lives, they can set goals and develop personal and professional relationships that will give their lives meaning.

Our vision statement says it perfectly: From Mental Illness to Hopeful Futures!


You can read more about the Gould Farm by visiting their website and by reading about Oprah’s visit to Gould Farm here.

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