Making Connections Editor: Christine Capra, Program Manager, HT Institute

2018 Summer Newsletter

Horticultural Therapy is making an impact on people’s lives.
Read more about how it’s happening.

HTI Director’s Note:
Summer’s Joy for HT Programs

By Rebecca Haller, HTM

Summer is in full swing, and so too are horticultural therapy programs. After the frenzy of spring, with all the careful timing and structure of planting and daily emergence of seedlings and blooms, it is fitting to slow the pace a bit in the warm months. To be sure, there is always something to do – watering, weeding, deadheading, and such. Some consider these to be chores, but I always think of them as opportunities –  prospects for meaningful activities which engage and allow ‘ownership’ of a garden, as well as occasions to be outdoors. Of course, outdoor gardens are rich sources for activities to meet treatment goals. The warmer months also allow most of us in temperate climates to easily have a daily dose of nature through outdoor activities. Research shows significant health benefits of time spent outdoors – particularly when a person unplugs from earbuds, and computers, and practices mindful attention to their surroundings. Encourage program participants to notice their environs in the garden. Use all of the senses to be aware of fragrances, sounds or birds, movement of butterflies and insects, and the texture and colors of plants. As a therapist, be sure that you too take time for this attentiveness, find opportunities for enjoyment, and experience the resulting mental and physical restoration.

Enroll Today:
Fundamentals of HT Class Fall 2018

Learn how to combine a passion for gardening with professional human service through the innovative field of horticultural therapy. Join students from across the country to learn more by enrolling in  Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy this fall in one of three locations–including for the first time at the San Diego Botanic Garden!

At the non-profit Horticultural Therapy Institute (HTI), our mission is to provide education and training in HT to those new to, or experienced with, the practice of using gardening and plants to improve the lives of others. For the past 16 years, our faculty has been dedicated to teaching best practices with passion, and our past students form a community of learners that become horticultural therapy practitioners in a variety of settings. Class cost for the 4-day intensive is $800 ($650 for full-time college students with proof of student status). The remaining three certificate classes will be held  in Colorado and California and to complete a full certificate in HT plan to attend those additional classes.

Student can earn college credit from Colorado State University to meet the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) professional standards. Fall dates are as follows:

Nov. 1-4, 2018    Deadline: Oct. 1
Anchor Center for Blind Children
Denver, Colorado

Nov. 15-18, 2018 Deadline: Oct. 15
San Diego Botanic Garden (New location!)
San Diego, California

Dec. 6-9, 2018 Deadline: Nov. 6
Elkus Ranch
Half Moon Bay, California

To enroll in a class, call 303-388-0500 or go to

Horticultural Therapy Program Profile:
Farm to Families in San Diego, CA

By Joni Gabriel

Joni Gabriel demonstrates watering during Herb Class at Wild Willow Farm

As part of a therapeutic gardening class, I’m teaching adults through a pilot project called “Farm to Families.” This collaborative undertaking in San Diego provides support for patients at a community health clinic who are facing health problems, particularly obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Participants receive health and nutrition education, cooking and gardening classes, and a weekly box of fresh produce from a local farm CSA.

In the monthly 90-minute gardening classes, participants learn to grow culinary herbs and salad greens in containers and experience gardening as an enjoyable activity that can reduce stress, provide exercise, and improve diet. Most have little or no gardening experience, and the curriculum is designed to give them success early on.  The aim is to scaffold their learning, spark curiosity, and build confidence from session to session, so that eventually they lean toward asking, “What happened?” when something goes awry – say, the cilantro plant they’re growing in July has died (in San Diego, cilantro grows best in the winter) – rather than declaring, “I have a black thumb” and giving up.

When I’m developing lessons plans for the classes, I keep in mind, with a nod to the experts, both my audience and the factors that motivate adults to learn:

Class learns how to pot up herbs

  • They get something personal out of it.
  • The learning builds on what they know.
  • They can share it with others.
  • They have some degree of independence during the process.
  • They can see an immediate application.
  • They participate actively in the process and have a chance to practice.
  • The learning taps into a mix of learning styles (hearing, seeing, doing).
  • The learning stimulates multiple intelligences (linguistic, logical/mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalist).

Joni Gabriel is a graduate of the Horticultural Therapy Institute and will be a guest speaker at the upcoming fall Fundamentals of HT Class held at the San Diego Botanic Gardens Nov. 15-18, 2018.

Horticultural Therapy Tips for Practice:
Behavior Therapy & Mindfulness–in and through the Garden

By Todd Snyder

I work with patients dealing with eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders at a residential treatment center in the Boston area. My primary treatment approach is a type of behavior therapy called Exposure and Response Prevention in which patients actively move towards and into feared thoughts, emotions and physical experiences. This form of behavior therapy can result in the return to a productive and fulfilling life for those whose lives have been greatly compromised or “put on hold” because of the avoidance of all things connected to their primary fears. As my experience has grown and my approach evolved over the years, I have found great value in incorporating mindfulness and horticulture into my practice.

What is mindfulness?

A very prominent figure in the world of mindfulness and founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program, Jon Kabat-Zinn, defines mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment”.  Steven Hayes, founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, uses the concept of an “observing self” that can be aware of and observe the thinking mind. The idea of mindfulness in both approaches listed above is that our thinking, analyzing, problem-solving mind can cause us as much suffering as it does positive experience. Mindfulness is a way of observing the thoughts, emotions and physical experiences as they occur without getting “hooked into” or “fused with” any of these. There is a large body of evidence showing the health benefits of mindfulness as well as the positive impact on a wide range of treatment modalities including mental health therapy.

How does this fit with the garden and the act of gardening?

For many, the garden is a place of novel experiences and discoveries that elicit one’s attention, pulling them “out of their heads”.  This pulling of attention can temporarily “unhook” or “defuse” one from the ruminations about the past and worries about the future that, if not done, so often lead to unsuccessful attempts to think their way out of the related negative thoughts, emotions and somatic experiences. This is wonderful for all involved, including the therapist, as they see this impact in the moment. However, it is quite possible that, as some of the novelty wears off, the rumination and worry will make its way back in and become a part of the garden experience. The upside is that the garden and the activity of gardening can become an integral part of the learning and practice of mindfulness.

In mindfulness meditation, the meditator selects an “anchor” on which to focus his or her attention. In the garden this could be views or sounds of the garden, the texture or fragrance of plants and the act of gardening itself. The idea is that once a person realizes, via the “observing self”, that the mind has taken them away from the chosen anchor, they purposefully and non-judgmentally bring their attention back to the chosen “anchor”. It is important to note that the goal is not to get rid of the other thoughts or distractions (even the “bad” or “scary” ones) but to simply be aware and refocus. This type of practice can lead to the same type of awareness and act of refocusing in settings, interactions and activities in everyday life outside of the garden.

It’s a natural fit (pun intended).

The natural draw of the garden and therapeutic nature of gardening make for an ideal environment in which to learn and practice mindfulness which has the potential to improve the efficacy of more traditional therapy approaches outside of the garden. I have found this to be the case for the patients with whom I work. The mindfulness concepts and practices learned in the garden are then used to make room for the necessary distress related to unwanted thoughts, emotions and physical experiences within my primary mode of therapy, Exposure and Response Prevention therapy. It’s experiential learning at its best.

Todd Snyder is a graduate of the Horticultural Therapy Institute

HTI Kudos:

From the HT Institute:

The 2nd edition of Horticultural Therapy Methods: Connecting People and Plants in Health Care, Human Services, and Therapeutic Programs is being translated into Chinese. A date for publication has not yet been announced by the publisher, CRC Press Taylor & Francis Group.

Congratulations to HTI graduate Chin Yung Wung, who recently completed her horticultural therapy internship at Adult Care Services in Prescott Arizona. Faculty member, Pam Catlin was her on-site supervisor for the 3-month internship.  “During the internship I not only received HT skills from Pam but saw how different horticultural therapy is practiced between the U.S. and Taiwan. For more details see:

Following her internship, she flew back to Taiwan to enhance her psychology knowledge and apply what she learned in the US.

She currently works in a non-profit facility in Taichung, Taiwan with people who have developmental disabilities and need HT pre-vocational training. Last summer, Chin Yung provided several advanced HT courses at the community college in Taiwan and presented on the topic of horticultural therapy at National I-Lan University. Finally, she received her HTR in April 2018. Follow her website for more information on HT in Taiwan.

Environments for Aging Conference

By Beth Bruno

Beth is a graduate of the HT Institute

As horticultural therapists one part of our jobs is to advocate for horticultural therapy to a wider audience, educating a wide array of professionals and laypersons about the benefits for many populations. Over the past 5 years I have had the opportunity to speak at the national Environments for Aging conference about the importance of gardens designed to facilitate horticultural therapy; lead workshops on state and regional levels for the North Carolina Activity Professionals Association; and give a talk at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston, SC about cultivating well-being in the garden, which introduced the concept of horticultural therapy to a large and diverse audience. In September I will be speaking at the National Adult Day Services Association national conference in Baltimore, Maryland. The title of my talk is “Advocating for Improved Well-Being through Horticultural Therapy”. I will be speaking to administrators and directors of adult day cares, among others, and I will be emphasizing the importance of hiring a qualified horticultural therapist for the greatest benefit to the participants and the facility. It is such a joy to share my passion for this profession and I will continue to look for opportunities to reach a larger audience about the life-changing benefits of horticultural therapy.