A few years ago, it became obvious that I was in dire need of a career change. I followed my heart and enrolled in the horticulture program at a local community college. One of the program requirements was to complete a summer internship between the first and second year. I had the good fortune to serve my internship at a vocational training greenhouse for adults with special needs. Over that summer I acquired a great deal of practical skill from the program director, a man with 25+ years of experience in the field of horticulture.
Learning from others in your chosen or a related field, who have advanced knowledge and/or a different approach has great value. We, as horticultural therapists, are educated and encouraged to modify interventions to an individual’s specific needs in order to produce the best possible therapeutic outcome. Therefore, we can take a specific intervention that has proven successful with one population and modify it to be successful with another population.
Of course, staying abreast of current and new information, research and technique is essential in any patient-centered practice. The real challenge is to find legitimate and attainable information sources. Earlier this year a new horticultural therapy textbook was published. The Profession and Practice of Horticultural Therapy is edited by Rebecca Haller, Karen Kennedy and Christine Capra. They also contribute by authoring various chapters throughout the book. It is the first major textbook dedicated to the practice of horticultural therapy in 21 years.
The previous textbook, edited by Sharon Simson and Martha Strauss, was published in 1998. Horticulture as Therapy, Principles and Practice has long been considered a leading resource for those with an interest in practicing horticultural therapy and therapeutic horticulture. Simson and Strauss provide a comprehensive overview of the theories and principles of horticultural therapy, but due to the evolution and advancement of the profession over the past two decades much of the information presented is considered antiquated by today’s standards.
The Profession and Practice of Horticultural Therapy was written to provide a foundation for developing a therapeutic approach to an individual rather than to present practice guidelines. Although, the textbook is directed toward students, it serves to provide understanding and a base for education within a wide range of health care professions. The three women who conceived this text have a wealth of experience and all are leaders in the field of horticultural therapy today. Yet, they chose to enhance their own experiences and knowledge with input from many others, those within the horticultural therapy world and from supporting human service professions, to produce a truly unique and valuable resource.
The textbook is organized into four sections; an overview of the horticultural therapy profession, theories supporting horticultural therapy use, models for programs and tools for the therapist. Each individual section includes several chapters. The chapters are all authored by a different professional. This approach was adopted to illustrate the broad reach of horticultural therapy today. The chapters cover a wide range of topics. For example, section one includes an introduction to the profession, section two examines the people-plant relationship and much more, section three provides guidance for programming and section four instructs the reader on how to implement the necessary tools to conduct a successful practice.
The information is presented in a concise and relatable fashion and is adaptable to most horticultural therapy practices. In addition, each chapter includes exhibits, tables and photos where the reader is invited to explore a wide range of programming examples from the perspective of the practitioner. These components were added because “the editors recognize that there is considerable overlap among populations in horticultural therapy within each of the models of practice”.
Personally, I found the program examples in each chapter to be of great interest. Each exhibit highlights a current practice, therapeutic technique, or perspective. This material is relatable and relevant to today’s HT practitioner. Reading how and why certain interventions were employed made me realize that I could take this information and modify it to enrich my own practice. There is also a list of key terms and a reference list included at the end of each chapter to enhance a deeper understanding of the materials presented. The resources included in section four, “Tools for the Therapist, is collection of the nuts and bolts type of information every horticultural therapist should have on hand.
It has been my experience that the very best way to gain a deeper understanding of new techniques, research and skills, is to learn from another’s perspective and collected wisdom. The information you gather from such interactions will be of great benefit as you move forward in your career. The Profession and Practice of Horticultural Therapy offers the reader this unique experience. The textbook will not only educate those with a budding interest in horticultural therapy and support those actively practicing HT but will also serve to provide the groundwork for future research that will in turn enhance momentum within our profession.