The History and Practice of Horticultural Therapy
Horticultural Therapy Blooms as a Profession and a Practice
Horticultural therapy (HT) is not only an emerging profession, it is a time-proven practice. The therapeutic benefits of peaceful garden environments have been understood since ancient times. In the 19th century, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and considered to be the “Father of American Psychiatry,” reported that garden settings held curative effects for people with mental illness.
Rehabilitative care of hospitalized war veterans in the 1940’s and 1950’s greatly expanded the practice of HT. Today, HT is recognized as a practical and viable treatment with wide-ranging benefits for people in therapeutic, vocational, and wellness programs.
HT is now taught and practiced throughout the world in a rich diversity of settings and cultures.
Designs That Share the Secret of the Garden
The American Horticultural Therapy Association is a champion of barrier-free, therapeutic gardens that enable everyone to work, learn, and relax in the garden. Horticultural therapists are skilled at creating garden spaces that accommodate people with a wide range of abilities. People with physical or mental disabilities benefit from gardening experiences as part of HT programs, and they learn skills, adaptations, and gardening methods that allow for continued participation at home.
Some techniques include:
Constructing wide, gently graded wheelchair accessible entrances and paths.
Utilizing raised beds and containers
Adapting tools to turn a disability into an ability
Creating sensory-stimulation environments with plants selected for fragrance texture and color
Utilizing accessible greenhouses that bring the garden indoors for year-round enjoyment
Careers in HT
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.
The demand for trained horticultural therapists has prompted universities, colleges, and other organizations to offer degree and certificate programs in the field.