Horticultural therapy (also known as Social and Therapeutic Horticulture or STH) is defined by the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) as the engagement of a person in gardening and plant-based activities, facilitated by a trained therapist, to achieve specific therapeutic treatment goals. The AHTA believes that horticultural therapy is an active process which occurs in the context of an established treatment plan.
Horticultural therapists are specially educated and trained members of rehabilitation teams (with doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists and other) who involve the client in all phases of gardening - from propagation to selling products - as a means of bringing about improvement in their life.
Benefits and outcomes
Horticulture therapy offers a wide range of benefits for individuals, groups, and communities. The experience of interacting with plants through horticultural therapy is designed to promote social, physical, psychological and cognitive well-being. See AHTA Definitions and Positions paper at http://ahta.org/sites/default/files/DefinitionsandPositions.pdf. for a list of benefits in published literature.
The healing power of a garden setting is an idea that dates back to ancient Egypt. The first modern documentation of horticulture being used as a treatment for mental health purposes was in the 1800’s. Dr. Benjamin Rush discovered that field labor in a farm setting helped attain positive outcomes for clients with mental illness (Simson & Straus, 2003). This discovery lead many hospitals in the western world to begin using horticulture as a means to start therapeutically treating patients with mental health and developmental disabilities. In 1817, the Asylum for Persons Deprived of Their Reason, now known as Friends Hospital, constructed an environment with landscaping, paths and a park atmosphere in effort to assist patients in their recovery. In 1879 Friends Hospital built the first greenhouse that was used for therapy (Simson & Straus, 2003). “During World War I and II, servicemen worked in gardens to improve functioning of injured limbs and increase mental function, but also to learn new skills and to provide food” (http://tiadjones.tripod.com/horttherapy.htm#d). Plants and gardening also came to be used as a diversion for those who were hospitalized long-term. The 1950’s and 1960’s brought the first degree in horticultural therapy at Michigan State University. In 1972, Kansas State University created the first curriculum that provided students with dual training in both psychology and horticulture (Simson & Straus, 2003). The first graduate degree program was offered by Clemson University in 1973 (Simson & Straus, 2003). In 1973 the Council for Therapy and Rehabilitation though Horticulture (NCTRH) was established by a group of horticulture therapy professionals. In 1988, they changed their name to the American Horticulture Therapy Association (AHTA) which they are still called today. AHTA is a non-profit organization with about 25% off their members being professionally registered
American Horticulture Therapy Association (AHTA) offers the opportunity for professionals interested in practicing horticultural therapy to register as Horticultural Therapists (Horticulture Therapy Registered, HTR). Some colleges and universities have academic programs in horticulture therapy that are accredited through AHTA. AHTA has a set core curriculum for accredited programs to follow. Along with specific classes to take, internships are a very critical component. AHTA requires that to be Horticultural Therapist Registered, 480 hours of field experience is to be completed.
Horticulture therapy can be used with a variety of populations and settings. Simson and Straus (2003) have categorized horticulture therapy services into three main types of programming; vocational, social, and therapeutic. Vocational programs focus on rehabilitation with an expected outcome of employment. Therapeutic programs focus on the medical needs of a client; the goal is recovery. Recovery can be in the healing of the body or mind. Lastly, social programs exists under the umbrella of horticulture therapy. Social programs have a focus of wellness. The expected outcome is an increase in enjoyment out of life. Clients benefiting from the therapeutic arm of horticulture therapy typically include those individuals with psychiatric challenges, substance abuse issues, and those who are in recovery from a physical injury. Clients served under the vocational arm of horticulture therapy may include individuals who are incarcerated, have a developmental or psychiatric disability, or people who have experienced socioeconomic disadvantages. Clients typically served under the social arm of horticulture therapy might include the elderly, and community based programs.
- Allied health professions
- Alterntive Therapies
- Art Therapy
- List of botanical gardens and arboretums in the United States#North Carolina List of Botanical Gardens in the USA
- Care farming
- Creative-Expressive Arts Therapy
- Forest Bathing Forest Bathing
- Guerrilla gardening
- Green Gym
- Healing Gardens
- Integrative Therapies
- International Expressive Arts Therapy Association-IEATA IEATA
- List of therapies List of Therapies
- Meditative Garden
- Movement/dance Therapy
- Therapeutic Garden
- Marilyn Barrett Creating Eden, The Garden as a Healing Space (Harper, 1992).
- Francis, Linsay, Rice (Eds.) The Healing Dimensions of People-Plant Relations (Center for Design Research, 1994).
- Norfolk, Donald The Therapeutic Garden (Bantam, 2000).
- Relf, Diane (Ed.) The Role of Horticulture and Human Well-Being (Timber Press, 1992).
- Simson, Sharon & Straus, Martha C. Horticulture as therapy: principles and practice (Routledge, 2003).