Cross-pollinating the evidence: A feasibility study into the therapeutic potential of beekeeping for adults with substance misuse issues.
Beekeeping could provide opportunities to address substance misuse, however the literature in this subject area is weak, with no formal evaluations using beekeeping as a complex intervention. Ethical approval was obtained. A feasibility study was undertaken, utilising a mixed methods research design, to explore the therapeutic potential of beekeeping for adults with substance misuse issues and to establish whether definitive formal evaluation is possible. Forty-five participants (18 in a Control Group and 25 in an Intervention Group) completed the following quantitative measures over three time periods: the Warwickshire Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, the Office of National Statistics Subjective Wellbeing Questions, the SF36 health questionnaire, the Connectedness to Nature Scale and the Treatment Outcome Profile. These data were analysed using mixed ANOVAS to ascertain changes in wellbeing, quality of life scores, connectedness to nature and substance use frequency.
Eighteen participants from the Intervention Group then engaged in semi structured interviews about their experiences of beekeeping, which were analysed using Thematic Analysis. Significant improvements were seen in wellbeing, calmness, mental focus, mindfulness and recovery skills over time for both groups. However, it was only the Connectedness to Nature scores that showed significantly greater improvements in the Intervention Group compared with the Control Group.
Phenomenological meanings that participants projected onto the beekeeping activity provided powerful narratives and demonstrated connection with the bees beyond anthropomorphism. It is argued here that this depth of meaning may be a form of recovery capital in its own right. It is concluded that beekeeping may have potential therapeutic qualities for adults who have experienced substance misuse issues, with promising implications for future practice development. This study shows that beekeeping is acceptable to participants as an intervention, which warrants consideration for formal evaluation.