Fall and Fallow

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Horticultural Therapy

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Horticultural Therapy or Therapeutic Horticulture? The two phrases are often confused, so what’s the difference? Let’s start with the similarities, to make the differences more apparent. Horticultural Therapy and Therapeutic Horticulture are similar in that they both improve the quality of life of an individual. Have you ever gone out to your garden to dig up weeds; water the plants; plant seeds; transplant seedlings; or picked flowers for a floral arrangement? Have you ever taken a stroll in the park with friends; cultivated a vegetable garden; or stared at the little plant on your desk for a few minutes before you went back to filing? Did you start or work in a community garden?  

If you answered yes to any of these questions, my next question is, “how did you feel while engaging in the activity and on completing the activity?” Invariably the response I get is, “I love doing it, its therapeutic.” Further probing questions as to the nature of the therapeutic benefits, elicit responses such as, it relieves stress; provides me with physical exercise; creates an opportunity for me to socialize with new people; helps me to have some alone time; beautifies the neighborhood or my space; I feel like I accomplished something; and so on. This is Therapeutic Horticulture, and we all participate in it on some level; it is random and can vary from day-to-day. What also emerges is the accidental nature of the discovery of the benefits of gardening or spending time with plants.  This, along with the fact that the activity can be placed on the back burner, or abandoned altogether, marks the point where Therapeutic Horticulture and Horticultural Therapy begin to diverge.

 A contributor to this blog summed up Horticultural Therapy this way, “Horticultural Therapy is the process by which Horticultural Therapists use plants and plant-based activities to rehabilitate people affected by physical, mental, or emotional trauma.  It is goal oriented, and it is a part of the treatment plan for a patient who may also be receiving services from an Occupational Therapist, Speech Therapist, Physical Therapist or other professional. A Horticultural Therapist is trained in the plant sciences and people sciences, and must be accredited by the American Horticultural Therapy Association to practice as a Horticultural Therapist. There is a Code of Ethics that Horticultural Therapists must abide by. So, Horticultural Therapy is administered in a structured setting to special populations, by a trained Horticultural Therapist. It can include programs that focus on improved quality of life and Wellness, but it is rehabilitative therapy aimed at reintegrating someone back into society.  It is not the same as Therapeutic Horticulture, which is the use of plants and plant-based activities to achieve wellness.

To learn more about Horticultural Therapy and how to become a Horticultural Therapist, visit the website https://www.ahta.org/