The field of horticultural therapy offers many career options for the motivated professional – those involving clinical practice as well as community horticulture or therapeutic garden design. Students who complete the HT Certificate gain skills to work in each of these arenas. In clinical practice, horticultural therapists (HTs) typically work as part of a treatment team to help program participants meet specified measurable goals and objectives. In community horticulture, HTs may also be leaders of community gardens, school gardens, independent living programs, health prevention, etc. HTs are also valuable members of garden design team for health care, accessibility and HT programming.
The horticultural therapist may work with people in virtually any type of healthcare or social service setting, for example: physical rehabilitation, mental health, vocation services, long term care, hospice, corrections, special education, wellness and health-support, foster care or youth services. They may work in impoverished or socially-disadvantage communities, in public gardens or in retirement living.
HTs may be paid as employees or on a contractual basis. Contractors often work at several facilities, either at on-site gardens or by bringing plant materials to the facility for activities. Across the U.S. horticultural therapists are paid wages commensurate with human service workers in the region of employment. (AHTA periodically conducts salary surveys of its members. Check with them for more information.)
Horticultural therapy is practiced by professionals focusing particularly on HT as well as allied professionals who incorporate HT as a treatment modality within their related practice (such as occupational therapy, therapeutic recreation, social work, vocational rehabilitation, psychotherapy, art therapy, or physical therapy). The HT needs skills in horticulture (especially home horticulture practices), social sciences (for example: group leadership, psychology, disabilities and populations served, treatment processes, counseling, human development, etc.), and horticultural therapy (including techniques, programming, design, and management). A successful HT also needs to be motivated, versatile and able to communicate needs and benefits of this emerging type of human service.
Careers of HTI “Graduates”
The innovative field of horticultural therapy continues to attract people from all walks of life who want to combine their passion for gardening with a desire to help others though horticultural therapy. With each group of students who joins the Horticultural Therapy Institute, new learners are trained with the skills to practice HT and apply their training in both clinical and non-clinical programs. Some of our past students are working as horticultural therapists in the following positions and settings:
- Activity director-mental health hospital for youth
- Vocational program with developmentally disabled
- Community based adult day treatment facility
- Special education after school program
- Community and public garden programs
- Therapeutic recreation in a children’s hospital
- Residential hospice care
- Youth at risk summer gardening program
- Residence for people with dementia
- Landscape design for HT programs
- Rape crisis support group
- Residential farm for youth at risk
- HT with art therapy-community mental health
- Physical therapy in a rehabilitation hospital
- Vocational services in a veteran’s Hospital
An excellent way to explore the many possible applications of HT is to enroll in Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy with the Horticultural Therapy Institute.