Monday, March 18, 2019

Horticultural Therapy and Therapeutic Horticulture

Horticultural Therapy and Therapeutic Horticulture: Plants and Nature Enhancing Human Health and Wellbeing

Horticultural therapy and therapeutic horticulture are both modern-day practices with ancient roots that achieve enhanced functioning and well-being through people’s connection with nature and other plant-based experiences.  Often used interchangeably, there are key differences between horticultural therapy and therapeutic horticulture.                                                    
What is horticultural therapy?  Horticultural therapy is the active use of plants, gardens, the natural landscape and other horticulture activities by trained horticultural therapists as a therapy modality to restore and/or maximize cognitive, physical, social and psychological functioning typically in the lives of those that have been altered by illness, injury, psychological and development disorders, social and economic conditions, as well as the aging process. Horticultural therapy is practiced widely through social, vocational, rehabilitative and therapeutic programs in custom-designed environments, aimed at meeting the therapeutic and rehabilitation goals of a broad range of people. Working with traumatic brain injury survivors in a hospital therapeutic garden or guiding dementia patients in plant propagation or autism spectrum disorder young adults in a vocational gardening program are examples of horticultural therapy.   See article Gardening Becomes Healing with Horticultural Therapy - CNN -   (, one’s testimonial.                         

What is therapeutic horticulture?  Therapeutic horticulture can be active or passive involvement in the use of horticulture by individuals for self, by leaders of groups, or one-to-one activity to achieve enhanced physical, emotional, cognitive and social well-being in recreation, leisure, vocational and social experiences and programs.  Programs and activities often take place in a wide variety of outdoor spaces: parks, public gardens, community gardens, arboreta, as well as in indoor program spaces, self-directed or facilitated by professionals and non-professionals. The simple act of retreating to the four hundred plus acres of green space at the National Arboretum or participating in one of its professionally guided Full Moon Forest Bathing activities ( or gardening in a community garden, are each examples of therapeutic horticulture.  See artice Therapeutic Horticulture (, Master Gardeners at work.

Did you know that the third week in March is designated National Horticultural Therapy Week?  National Horticultural Therapy Week was officially established by Congress in 2006 to bring nation-wide attention to the long-standing practice and profession of horticultural therapy.  During National Horticultural Therapy Week, the American Horticultural Therapy Association coordinates the efforts of regional networking groups, affiliated horticultural therapy programs, and AHTA members to collaborate in celebrating and elevating recognition and appreciation of the profession on a national and local level. This year National Horticultural Therapy Week is celebrated March 17 – March 23.