What is Horticultural Therapy?

Horticultural Therapy (HT) is the use of plant-related activities for social, vocational, and rehabilitative purposes, namely, physical, mental or emotional improvement.  HT can be used in many settings and is adaptable to many populations with different treatment goals. 


Who can benefit from HT?


Horticulture and nature activites offer a wide spectrum of possible outcomes for therapeutic programs.  HT promotes three basic program types, although most activities have multiple benefits;


* Vocational - includes pre-vocational skills and behavior modification programs


* Rehabilitation - used in medical treatment facilities for physical, cognitivel or psychological improvement


 * Social - benefits inclue reduced isolation or depression, increased self-esteem and self-worth, building social capital, etc. 


HT activities can be adapted to meet different goals, and is a versatile co-treatement program.  In prisons, e.g., clients often have multiple goals (substance abuse rehabilitiaton, vocational training, socialization), and HT is an ideal strategy to address many identified goals simultaneously. 


Research that demonstrates the positive impact of plant-related activities on humans is growing steadily, and  the benefits go beyond patients; the healthy environments benefit family members and staff too!


HT can assist older clients become more comfortable using adaptive tools, which can extend independent living options, as well as demonstrating the possibility of maintaining Quality of Life (QOL) with the use of adaptive techniques and tools. In many studies, drug use has been reduced by HT, which improves physical and mental and social functioning.


What training is required for HT professionals?


Horticultural Therapists are required to follow the standards and regulations set by the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA). HT’s are college graduates with required courses in the humanities, horticulture, and specialized training for the profession.  HT's can work with a team of specialists that collaborate in order to achieve client goals.  Documentation and good communication are emphasized in HT practices, as well as modern ethical standards used in the therapeutic professions.








 Stephen  Pettengill

Horicultural Therapist

Landscape Designer
Portland, Oregon


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