Horticultural therapy

Veterans participating in Horticultural Therapy

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 visual aesthetics of plants are known to elicit feelings of inner peace, which generates positive emotions toward a meaningful appreciation of life. Direct contact with plants guides the individual's focus away from stress enhancing their overall quality of life.[1] The AHTA believes that horticultural therapy is an active process which occurs in the context of an established treatment plan.[2] 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.

Types Of TreatmentEdit

There are many horticultural therapy types that are provided from hospitals, schools, rehabilitation center, elderly care facilitates, mental health hospitals, and other places of healthcare. Each one of these facilities have different types of horticultural therapy, each with their own individual forms of treatment.[3] These treatments are introduced to the lives of people that are looking for flexible treatments that aren't time consuming and can tend to each individuals schedules.

Treatment Teams is a form of therapy that involves a therapist or group of therapists and one client. Their main focus is to create a list of goals that their client has and create a procedure that will best achieve that clients goals. To start off, they sit down with their patient and discuss their intention with horticulture therapy. This may vary with hopes of forming new relationships from horticultural activities, finding a job through horticulture, releasing unwanted emotions through the act of gardening, or continuing gardening/ working with plants at home.[4] They establish an arrangement with their client that focuses on four steps to reaching their goal(s) including "Objective, Methods, Criteria, Documentation."[4]

Objective: A list of goals the team and their client is looking to achieve through horticultural therapy.

Methods: Come to an agreement of what their therapy sessions will look like, such as how many times they plan to meet and what can they do to work towards their goal(s).

Criteria: Finding out where they are going to start with treatment and what will regulate the end of their goal.

Documentation: Determining what they want to document throughout their treatment and how many times they will they do so.

This type of horticultural therapy is used to introduce more people to gardening and use it as a way to work through their issues with the help of a team.

Gardening green house

Vocational Therapy teaches people the background behind horticulture. They learn how to grow their own plants and garden in their own small area. After learning how to care for their space, they begin to learn how to make a profit out of selling their work. This form of therapy is used to redirect the focus of those learning the science of plants. This teaches them how to create their own business within growing plants while also learning the benefits of supporting themselves mentally and financially.

Activities vocational therapy teaches consists of how to repot, water, and move plants within their space. Learning the basic knowledge of their plants root system and the care different plants need is taught at their own pace.[5]

Social Therapy is an environment in which people learn how to tend to their own plants and garden in a social setting. This form of therapy offers the opportunity to engage with others that may be seeking help through horticulture as well. Those who take part in social therapy work on their gardens and greenhouses with others, with their own plants to grow. This gives them a chance to learn on their own, surrounded by friends and professionals. Creating a community that focuses on plant growth together teaches self reliance but with a support system.[6]

Therapeutic Therapy (TT) includes the more calming aspect of horticulture. This therapy practice focuses on reducing stress in ones life through gardening and plant growing. Working with plants is viewed as a way to take a break and focus on nature. (TT) is often used in elderly care facilities to occupy the residents and get them more in touch with the outdoors. It is shown that acts of horticulture has had many benefits such as a decline in patients pain. The scenery of plants lessens the amount of negative stimuli in the brain, by relaxing and soothing the nerves. While people watch the progress of their gardens they may experience more confidence if their plants do well. With the right amount of sun exposure and watering new growth on their plants can excite the caretaker, building up their confidence and increasing enthusiasm towards horticultural activities.[7]

Past Experiments With Horticulture Therapy (Recent 2019)Edit

The National Council for Therapy and Rehabilitation through Horticulture created a journal of 2019 experiments. These experiments tracked the progress of people with certain health conditions using horticulture therapy (HT) to document how it changed their mental and physical health. This journal is called "Journal of therapeutic horticulture" as a part of the (AHTA).

Throughout 2019 there were three experiments tested by (AHTA). The groups tested on had varied between a range of mental disorders in order to see how (HT) improved their functioning. Over the course of three months this therapy was mixed in with Schizophrenic patient's schedules while also receiving occupational therapy. Their progress was documented over their course of treatment based upon how their symptoms of depression and anxiety fluctuated, along with their attitude towards life.[8] It was known to help reduce their symptoms but did not decrease their feelings of "hopelessness." An experiment later on was given to women with a past of sexual abuse taken over a course of ten weeks. They found involvement with horticulture broadened their "time with nature." This form of therapy was documented as helpful to forming better "relationships" with others and changing their view on life moving forward.[8] The third experiment was provided to veterans and active duty members in order to open their awareness towards mental health. This therapy provided them with professional sources that could help them with the aftermath of being on duty. Those that took part in HT found working with nature and plants to be helpful and distracting.[8]

Education And Job Requirements As A Horticultural TherapistEdit

Hands on work through internship

Education: In order to become a horticultural therapist a bachelor degree in Horticultural Therapy, Human Science, or Plant Science is required. After schooling there are internships that give hands on experience, which needs to be at least 480 hours of work in total.[9]


- Working with clients/patients, focusing on their psychological blockages

- Creating an environment in which people can grow plants

- Working with a psychologist and patients together to incorporate multiple perspectives in ways to help

- Teaching the basics of plant growth including watering, potting, fertilizing, etc

- Directing volunteers and other workers

- Providing tasks for each client/patient[10]


The usage of horticulture to calm the senses dates as far back as 2000 BC in ancient Mesopotamia, and around 500 BC, ancient Persians created gardens to soothe the senses by involving beauty, fragrance, flowing water, and cool temperatures.[11] According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, Ancient Egyptian physicians prescribed walks around a garden for patients with mental illness;[12] which makes the first sign of the therapeutic process in Alexandria and Ancient Egypt through Renaissance Europe.[13] During the Middle Ages, on the grounds of a monastery hospital, plants were used to express purpose of cheering up melancholy patients. Also, the gardens were used to treat both physical and mental ailments of sickness who visited them.[14] The first modern documentation of horticulture being used as a treatment for mental health purposes was in the 1800s. 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. Plants and gardening also came to be used as a diversion for those who were hospitalized long-term.

The 1950s and 1960s 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 through 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.[15]

Today, horticultural therapy is practiced in many countries and area in the world, such as in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong,[16] the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Sweden. Many universities in these countries have education programs and research in horticultural therapy. Special laboratories have also been built, such as Alnarp Rehabilitation Garden at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences campus area in Alnarp.

Students with disabilities engaging in Horticultural Therapy


An extensive systematic review with meta-analysis examined the effectiveness of horticultural therapy [17]

Summary: The significant positive association with gardening was observed for a wide range of health outcomes, such as reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms, stress, mood disturbance, and BMI, as well as increases in quality of life, sense of community, physical activity levels, and cognitive function. The positive effect were particularly evident regarding patients and horticultural therapy (0.61, Hedges' g). The researchers conclude that their meta-analysis has provided robust evidence for the positive effects of horticultural therapy on health.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Lin, Lin, Li (2014). "Planting Hope in Loss and Grief: Self- Care Applications of Horticultural Therapy for Grief Caregivers in Taiwan". Death Studies (38): 603–611.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ "American Horticultural Therapy Association Definitions and Positions" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-09-08.
  3. ^ American Horticultural Therapy Association. "American Horticultural Therapy Association". www.ahta.org. Retrieved 2019-11-17.
  4. ^ a b "The Profession and Practice of Horticultural Therapy". 19 December 2016. Retrieved 2019-11-03.
  5. ^ "The Use of Horticulture in Vocational Rehabilitation". www.hort.vt.edu. Retrieved 2019-11-17.
  6. ^ "What is Social Therapeutic Horticulture?". Thrive. Retrieved 2019-11-17.
  7. ^ Detweiler, Mark B.; Sharma, Taral; Detweiler, Jonna G.; Murphy, Pamela F.; Lane, Sandra; Carman, Jack; Chudhary, Amara S.; Halling, Mary H.; Kim, Kye Y. (June 2012). "What Is the Evidence to Support the Use of Therapeutic Gardens for the Elderly?". Psychiatry Investigation. 9 (2): 100–110. doi:10.4306/pi.2012.9.2.100. ISSN 1738-3684. PMC 3372556. PMID 22707959.
  8. ^ a b c "Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture 29.1 - 2019". www.ahta.org. Retrieved 2019-11-17.
  9. ^ "Education for Horticultural Therapists". www.ahta.org. Retrieved 2019-11-17.
  10. ^ "Horticultural therapist | Explore careers". nationalcareers.service.gov.uk. Retrieved 2019-11-17.
  11. ^ Detweiler, MB; Sharma, T; Detweiler, JG; Murphy, PF; Lane, S; Carman, J; Chudhary, AS; Halling, MH; Kim, KY (2012). "What Is The Evidence To Support the Use of Therapeutic Gardens for the Elderly?". Psychiatry Investig. 9 (2): 100–10. doi:10.4306/pi.2012.9.2.100. PMC 3372556. PMID 22707959.
  12. ^ admin (2019-02-18). "Discover Whether Horticultural Therapy Can Finally End The Torture of Being a Mental Illness Victim?". Olmec Agro-Tech. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
  13. ^ "The Role Application of Horticultural Therapy With Institutionalized Older People" (PDF).
  14. ^ "The Role and Application of Horticultural Therapy with Institutionalized Older People" (PDF).
  15. ^ American Horticultural Therapy Association https://www.ahta.org/mission-vision. Retrieved 4 July 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ Hong Kong Association of Therapeutic Horticulture http://www.hkath.org/en/milestone/. Retrieved 4 July 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ Soga,M., Gaston, K.J., Yamaurac, Y. (2017). ”Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis”. Preventive Medicine Reports, 5: 92–99.


  • 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).
  • Haller, Rebecca L. Horticultural Therapy Methods: Connecting People and Plants in Health Care, Human Services, and Therapeutic Programs. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 2017.
  • 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).

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