Making Connections Editor: Christine Capra
Program Manager, HT Institute

2022 Fall Newsletter

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

Director’s Note:
Highlights from IHC 2022

By Rebecca Haller, HTM

In August, the International Horticultural Congress (IHC) met in beautiful Angers, France in the heart of the abundant horticulturally rich Loire Valley. A passionate group of over 2,000 horticultural professionals and educators from around the world met to examine a wide range of topics involving cutting-edge growing methods, responses to climate change, and innovative science and research tools. Included in the Congress was a symposium conducted by the International People Plant Council with sessions on horticultural therapy and additional people-plant matters. Presentations focused on research and schemes for food security, urban agriculture, community gardening, landscape and health, and others. Of particular interest to me were a description of a process for creating licensure for horticultural therapy in Ireland, research on HT and recovery from attentional fatigue, and various talks on therapeutic Landscapes.

Cultivation of Food as a Therapeutic Activity

At the conference I presented the results of a survey of experienced professional horticultural therapists working in a wide variety of program types. The focus was to discover if they included the cultivation of food as a therapeutic activity and what benefits they believed that food-growing brought to their clients and their organizations. All those surveyed grew food to some extent and perceived that the activity of growing food presents an authentic and motivating endeavor which offers fascination, engagement, and meaning to the individuals receiving therapy. It also was seen as a valuable tool to work on a full range of client treatment goals, including objectives in the cognitive, physical, emotional, and social domains. They expressed that food cultivation could also benefit their broader organizations and communities in many ways such as through enhancing patient/family satisfaction, by giving back through food donations, or providing volunteer opportunities. There seem to many reasons to grow food in HT programs! The full paper will appear in a future issue of ACTA Horticulturae, published by the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS),

Participating in the IHC was a great chance to connect with others internationally and broaden my perspective on HT and how it fits in the world. The experience was rewarding, enlightening, and energizing to me for future teaching.

Program Profile: Plant Care is Self-Care
Horticulture for Healing

By Joanna Brown

Pace girls with Horticulture For Healing plants

Followers and practitioners of Horticultural therapy know that nurturing a plant and caring for oneself go hand in hand. When practiced together they aid in the process of physical, emotional, social, and spiritual healing. Many people that, Horticulture For Healing (H4H) supports, come from a background of substance dependence, and/or a prevalence of violence, sexual, and emotional abuse, and have had little to no room for experiencing the restorative benefits connecting to nature can provide. Horticulture For Healing meets recovering folks in that space, while moving through shame, guilt, and hopelessness into a place where they can begin to own their life and claim the space in this world that is so rightfully theirs.

Providing Plants for People in Recovery

Residential treatment propagation workshop

I created Horticulture For Healing to provide plants, plant related activities and self-care resources for people in a time of relocation, transition, recovery and healing. Since 2020 H4H has partnered with residential treatment and transition homes for people experiencing substance use disorder and displacement, alternative high schools for under-served teens, safe homes for survivors of human trafficking, and for people re-entering society. After receiving our People and Plant care kits, Horticulture For Healing holds virtual and in person workshops depending on the treatment program’s needs and abilities. The workshops provide time and space for people in recovery to discover the practice of therapeutic horticulture as a stress relief tool, while growing self-kindness, confidence, and strength during a time when it may seem almost, if not impossible, to do so.

Joanna leading a virtual repot workshop with Aspire Residential

People & Plant Care Kits

My People & Plant Care kits and workshops – also known as ‘Plant Care is Self-Care’ –  is a creative outlet that in times of uncertainty and restlessness help practitioners to relieve stress and have a healthy focus while in treatment for substance use disorder. We use plant care as a metaphor for life in recovery. We focus on the parallels of caring for a plant and nurturing body and mind. The plant is the focal point of the care kit, used for a variety of self-care practices including designing a daily routine for healthy living that meets each client’s unique specific needs. The plant also helps support the experience of developing and utilizing a personal sacred space regardless of where you are presently living.

Each set of kits are specifically tailored and designed to meet the unique needs of the participants at each recovery/transition location at no cost to the facility. Workshops are usually for a 4–6-month commitment to start meeting 1- 4 times a month, virtually and in person.

Discovering & Reconnecting with Nature

Workshops touch on a variety of topics that are related to discovering/reconnecting with the inherent connection to nature we all possess. Some of the topics are:

Repot workshop at STEPS residential
  • The basics of developing and practicing healthy daily living routines
  • The practice of radical self-care
  • Learning how to nurture your mind and body though caring for a plant
  • Recognizing our inherent connection to seasons and nature
  • Learning the invaluable exercise of designing and self-publishing your own handwritten creative zine (mini magazine) in today’s digital world, with a focus on the experience of telling your story and being heard.
  • Plant propagation
  • Native plants and pollinators
  • Starting seedlings
  • Repotting & transplanting
  • A variety of plant related activities such as creating fairy gardens, dried flower art practice, and garden meditation.

H4H’s program participants meet outside (even when on Zoom) in any available natural space while learning to be more present in their environment, discovering self-soothing activities, creative expression, and reaffirming one’s own self-esteem and self-worth.

Thanks to recurring donations in 2021, our most recent kit distribution in August to Aspire Women’s Residential Program (Casselberry, FL). The most recent kits contain:

  • Soul soothing squeeze lavender & rose or mint & cedar sachets to keep under pillow, in backpack or purse or pocket.
  • 6” Terracotta pot
  • Pocket care guide
  • Deer’s foot ferns & rabbit’s foot ferns
  • Blank journal & pen
  • Seed envelope – filled with Florida wildflower seeds
  • Tiny starter pots for seeds
  • Horticulture For Healing’s Plant Care is self-care zines
  • Sticker/bookmark

H4H’s very first workshop was in 2020 at STEPS, a women’s residential treatment center.

Garden workshop at residential

Following a Path

STEPS is a private not-for-profit, community-based organization providing a continuum of quality, comprehensive substance use treatment services and education for individuals, including those with co-occurring disorders. Never having held a workshop like this before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. At this time, I wasn’t even aware that the Horticultural Therapy Institute existed or that it is a professional field. I had no idea that I was engaged in therapeutic horticulture. I was following my intuition and a path that I felt I had to take in developing Horticulture For Healing. I was about to go into a room with 45 women and share what I had to offer. I was amazed at the results and responses from participants. After talking with the group and wrapping up the session I understood that a lot of residents wanted to have their plant with them throughout their time in treatment. Normally when in treatment a client is not able to keep their personal belongings or bring anything from outside to inside. I was able to talk to the staff at STEPS and arrange for participants to keep their kits and plants in their room if they desired.

Positive Feedback from Participants

The participants were responsive and shared a lot of feedback on their care kits and what having a plant means to them. I was able to document a few responses from care kit recipients:

“Before getting to treatment I hadn’t showered or ate a decent meal in a long time, and I haven’t taken care of my body like I should have. I didn’t know how. I was simply trying to survive. My care kit gave me something alive and green to keep in my room that I watch after each day. Having the plant in my room reminds me to take care of myself and to drink water. I love my plant. “

“Now I have something to take care of and connect to, since I don’t have my children at this time. Having a plant is helping me to be gentle with myself, slow down and remember that things take time.”

“I keep my plant by my bedside and when I wake up I enjoy seeing my plant, before I would wake up and see a bare wall and feel alone and scared. Me and my room-mate watch after each others’ plants to make sure they are watered and staying green.”

“My roommate’s plant and my plant talk to each other. We know they communicate because we put them next to each other and they look healthy and happy. We talk about our plants and talk to them. Your information booklet was so kind and gentle. I have read it over and over.”

Healing Benefits of Plants During COVID

Throughout the first year of COVID19 I applied and received two grants and distributed over 284 kits to six partner centers. Then I used Zoom to hold virtual workshops anywhere from one to four times a month. The pandemic caused a situation where clients were not able to leave their residential centers for long stretches of time. By mid-2021 residents who were due to be in treatment for 12 months were now going on 18 months. Many clients didn’t have any contact outside the residential centers for six to 12 months. I felt determined to find a way to bring the healing benefits of plants to residential treatment during a pandemic and show up for people who are in a time of serious emotional, mental, and physical transition.

Plant care is Self Care kit

There were many challenges with the initial startup of the non-profit due to COVID19. I was forced to come up with a project adaptation, and successfully pivoted my original project from building in person gardens at the partnership locations to founding Plant Care Is Self-Care kits and workshops.

Our Partner Pace for Girls Inc in Immokalee, Florida is our next location for HT and therapeutic horticulture. Pace provides girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training, and advocacy. Pace helps girls who are struggling and who have experienced some form of trauma, to get their grades back on track, learn in a safe and supportive environment, get along better with friends and family and plan for a productive future. Recently H4H was presented with the opportunity to design our first horticultural therapy program with Pace’s on-site therapist. In 2020 and 2021 Pace received 50 Plant care Self-Care kits and Horticulture for Healing was a part of their science class for two full virtual semesters.

H4H relies on self-promotion, spreading the word, donations and grants to make our projects happen. To learn more visit our website.

Based in Miami, Joanna Brown is the program director and founder of Horticulture For Healing and a recent graduate of the HT Institute. Along with growing her nonprofit she is actively building a for profit HT contracting business which will launch in 2023.

Tips for Practice & Faculty Profile
Pam Catlin: A Professional with Heart, Soul & Passion

By Christine Capra

Pam Catlin, HTR at a recent HT Management in Fort Collins, CO

For more than 20 years, one of HTI’s faculty Pam Catlin, HTR, has inspired hundreds of students to enter and practice with excellence in the field of Horticultural Therapy. “Teaching for HTI these many years has been a remarkable experience.  Rebecca Haller (HTI’s director) has always set the bar high for the quality of our teaching, something I’ve been grateful for.  The team aspect of HTI has been present from the beginning and I believe the openness to different teaching styles results in a beautiful tapestry of HT education,” said Catlin. Her teaching style has enriched the HTI program, and it’s been an honor to have her on the team. She taught her final HT Management class this fall and will retire from teaching.

A Professional and Leader in the Field of HT

According to Haller, Catlin’s experience in creating and delivering many HT programs has brought a depth and breadth of skills and knowledge to HTI. “Pam is a professional with heart, soul, and passion as well as a leader in HT. She understands the variety of program types and potential for new innovations in the field. Her flexibility, ability to respond to students, and successfully manage the classroom are such valuable assets. She is committed to mentoring and helping those new to HT, as evidenced by her responses to students, promotion of HT education, and supervision of interns. Perhaps more than any of these, I value her teamwork, personal insights, and long-time friendship.”

Pam began her horticultural therapy career at the Chicago Botanic Garden where she developed contracts with many health care settings each year. From there she worked as the recreation director at Adult Care Services (an adult day center) in Prescott, AZ. Missing providing HT services she moved on to work as a private HT contractor including at Adult Care Services.

One location served adults with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities and the other two settings were residential settings for elders. For a period, she also consulted with an organization in Sun City, AZ, training life enrichment directors how to incorporate nature-based activities into their life enrichment programs. In 2005 Adult Care Services, which had by now expanded to three sites including a residential memory care community, created a full-time position for Catlin as director of horticultural therapy. “Being an employee provided me with the opportunity to write and publish a manual of nature-based activities and helped to support my involvement nationally,” she said. In addition, she has been an adjunct instructor of horticultural therapy with Prescott College.

Following Best Practices with Interns

Since retiring from Adult Care Services in June of 2017, she continued to be part of the HTI faculty and contract as an off-site HT internship supervisor. Over the years she has supervised nine HTI students through their internships and is currently supervising two more. By serving as an internship supervisor, Pam says it kept her on her toes. “Having interns was a reminder for me to follow ‘best practices. Interns have learned from me, and I have learned from them in many ways. Working closely with interns has created lifelong friendships and hearing of the HT work they are now successfully doing is so rewarding.”

When Catlin began teaching for the HT Institute, she instructed students about managing an HT program but also covered plant materials and activities for HT programs. As the curriculum evolved and classes shifted from five segments to four, she became focused on HT management.

Pam Catlin teaching the HT Management class this year on the Colorado State University Campus

Reflecting about what it’s meant to teach in the field of horticultural therapy all these years, she replied, “In teaching horticultural therapy for so many years I feel as if my personal HT work benefited. The teaching kept me up to date, introduced me to interns and helped to have HT as part of the business plan at Adult Care Services. Best of all, though, was going to conferences and seeing the many past students. Hearing of the HT work they were doing and receiving feedback about how the HT Management class had helped them never failed to instill a sense of pride in being part of HTI”

Because of Catlin’s long history of classroom instruction, she noted that trends in the field she has observed is a movement away from small individual programs in skilled nursing centers, to diverse HT programs in such settings as HT farms, HT wellness programs, HT for urban “at risk” individuals and large veteran’s programs. With that diversity she has great hope for the future of HT. “It is my hope that the field of HT becomes well known and respected by the public, resulting in more agencies offering professional horticultural therapy services. “

Thanks to Catlin for her years of dedicated service to the HT community and the Horticultural Therapy Institute. She will be missed.

Pam’s Tips for Practice:

  • Stay open minded and flexible. Being rigid and getting bent out of shape doesn’t serve you or the people in the program.
  • Be an example of HT as a profession versus ‘A nice thing to do’. Utilize the AHTA standards as a guide in your work.
  • Document, document, document! Even if the site doesn’t ask you to create treatment goals do so and chart after each HT session. This will be useful in having the HT program seen as an integral part of an organization and it will be helpful in obtaining grants. More importantly, the participants in the program will benefit. Have program goals and check them regularly to see if they are still appropriate or in need of updating.

Christine Capra is the program manager of the Horticultural Therapy Institute

HTI Kudos

New Faculty at HTI: Colleen Griffin, HTR

Colleen Griffin works with the K-2 Functional Life Skills Program in the Portland, ME Public Schools.

HTI welcomes a new faculty member, Colleen Griffin, HTR. She will be co-teaching the Horticultural Therapy Management class with Rebecca Haller, HTM beginning in the fall of 2023.

Griffin has been in private practice since 2018 and is a graduate of HTI. She holds a BS in Public Health from the University of Maine. In addition, she has experience developing HT/TH programming for special needs students in several public-school districts, including a program specifically designed for teens coping with substance abuse. Therapeutic garden design is a passion, and she enjoys teaching advanced training courses for master gardener volunteers through UMaine Cooperative Extension. Her community garden design for a cancer care foundation promotes therapeutic horticulture with self-guided mindfulness activities and interactive opportunities for all abilities. She has collaborated with faculty and staff at Southern Maine Community College in development of an on-campus mental health and wellness program. A regular contributor to the HTI blog, she has inspired readers to consider their connection to the natural world and gardens. Colleen serves on the board of the Northeast Horticultural Therapy Network and is an active member of the American Horticultural Therapy Association.

Colorado Therapeutic Horticulture Program Receives Grant

Teaching Garden at the Brunner Farmhouse and Gardens

This summer, HTI graduate, Kerri Burks, began working with Shari Burton, a Colorado Master Gardener and horticultural therapist, at the Broomfield Colorado State University Extension to create a sensory garden in their newly opened Teaching Garden at the Brunner Farmhouse and Gardens. This garden was designed to bring a needed capacity to Broomfield where children, individuals with disabilities, and older adults can experience the joy and techniques of vegetable gardening. Collaboration and cooperation have been key to the garden’s initial success. Upon hearing about the Colorado Garden Foundation Annual Grant Awards Program through HTI, Kerri worked with community partners to apply for a grant. Their teamwork paid off as they were recently surprised with the exciting news that they would be receiving an award to enrich their garden education and therapeutic horticulture programs. The grant will be presented at an awards ceremony at the Colorado Garden and Home Show in February 2023. This funding will enable the addition of shading to improve accessibility, support increased programming and encourage higher levels of activity for all participants and visitors.