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Horticultural Therapist Job Description, Career as a Horticultural Therapist, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

therapy patients therapists garden

Education and Training Professional Certificate

Average Salary $45,000 a year

Job Outlook Very good

Basic Job Description

Horticultural therapy is the process of using gardening to rehabilitate patients who have sustained mental or physical injury. It is a time proven technique of allowing a patient to garden and use the participation to encourage gardening habits at home. This provides patients with a way to relax and to be doing something constructive, both of which aid and speed the healing process. Horticultural therapy has been around for many centuries, but blossomed after the First World War, where it was used in the rehabilitation of soldiers. A horticultural therapist teaches gardening as well as creates gardens for patients or inmates that are easily accessible to patients with various handicaps or disabilities as well as prisoners or in nursing homes.

A horticultural therapist will teach a patient how to maintain a garden in order to give them a sense of caring for something or contributing to a process that develops into something aesthetically pleasing and gives a sense of accomplishment. Horticultural therapy also helps patients to live and eat healthier. If they are growing natural foods and plants, they can grow some with the goal of creating food for them and their family.

Education and Training Requirements

Most horticultural therapists obtain their education and training through a trade school that specializes in horticulture and holistic medicine and therapeutic practices, and then go on to take a state administered test to obtain a license to practice horticultural therapy. A Bachelor’s or Associate’s degree in holistic therapy or horticulture with concentrations in therapeutic practices can also be obtained as long as the state administered test is taken.

Many therapists work in rehabilitation centers, prisons, or nursing homes. There are different training procedures that will need to be practiced depending on where a horticultural therapist decides to work. Therapists who work in prisons will most likely have to take separate training courses and separate tests through the state to be trained and qualified to work with inmates. Therapists who work with those who are disabled will need an understanding of the different types of disabilities they are working with and how to handle their specific needs. Each horticultural therapist will need to undergo training specific to who they will be working with.

Getting the Job

When applying for a job as a horticultural therapist, the applicant will need to be specific with training classes and degrees, as well as any other accreditation for the area. It would be in the applicant’s best interest to become a member of the American Horticultural Therapy Association as well. The applicant should be very professional and courteous in their demeanor and attire. They should possess a thorough knowledge of horticultural therapy as well as its impact on the past. Patience and understanding are key in this field as you are dealing with various types of people that need to be rehabilitated. An applicant should have a good deal of gardening experience so that they can successfully coach patients in constructing the proper garden for their recovery. The applicant will need to be very friendly and outgoing, and not have a fear of working closely with the people who have mental challenges or even with prisoners.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Most horticultural therapists will work in a hospital type setting, but in a restricted sense. Most of the therapy will take place in the garden, teaching patients or inmates how to use the garden to alleviate stress and to teach them better cognitive function. There will be many opportunities for the horticultural therapist as the job market is rapidly increasing for the particular skill set that the training provides.

Employee outlook for horticultural therapy is particularly good right now. Hospitals and prisons as well as nursing homes are all looking to this method of counseling because of its noted results in recent years. The likelihood of finding and retaining a career in this field is very high. Loyal patients have been known to follow their horticultural therapy across the country because of the quality of care provided.

The increase in horticultural therapy is also due in part to holistic medicine being considered for more and more illness or disabilities. Horticultural therapy could be considered a form of natural healing that uses the patients existing abilities to heal instead of medications or drugs.

Developing the career of a horticultural therapist involves more training and possibly more college. This will help them further their career by providing them with the knowledge to become a full time counselor or even a full time gardener. Both aspects of the job are available if a therapist wishes to pursue them.

Working Conditions and Environment

Horticultural therapists will often work in a hospital type setting but with more of a focus on being outdoors or in a greenhouse. The work can be subject to weather conditions, which may run into extremes depending on what part of the country or world a therapist chooses to work. There is a need for horticultural therapists all over the world, so it is possible to experience traveling through new places and becoming familiar with plants and other horticultural traditions throughout the world.

In a prison setting, most of the work will take place outdoors and in a severely guarded setting. Since this job can be dangerous, it is recommended that only those with past experience with prisons and/or inmates should consider this field. The working conditions will be restricted much more than a hospital or nursing home would be.

An ideal horticultural therapist will be a friendly and outgoing individual that has a love for people as well as seeing them gain rehabilitation. They will need to have a strong love for gardening as well as for plants and plant life. They will need to be easy to talk to, have plenty of patience, a genuine love for people, and be good listeners. Teaching skills will be necessary as well. They will need to be understanding and authoritative, possessing self-motivation and determination to see people reach goals even though it is sometimes difficult. The success or failure of an HT depends on their ability to reach people on both the cognitive and mental level.

Salary and Benefits

The average salary of a horticultural therapist starts at about $45,000 a year, but that number increases with the years of experience. The pay is very competitive with other counseling positions. Experience with gardening will help increase that salary from the start, because many places are looking for a therapist that is successful in the garden.

Benefits for the horticultural therapist will often times be very good. Along with their insurance benefits, therapists will receive the same treatment they offer their patients in the garden, as well as the good feeling that accompanies helping someone change their lives for the better. It can be a very rewarding career choice, and most of those that are in the field love their jobs.

Where to Go for More Information

American Horticultural Therapy Association
150 South Warner Road, Suite 156
King of Prussia, PA 19406
(484) 654-0357

Christine Pollard Home Farm
3707 Gibbins Rd.
Duncan BC V9L 6E7
(250) 748-1777

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over 5 years ago

My body aches and its time to change my job. The hospital where I work needs a person to lead patients, patient family and caregivers outside to the great garden to explore. What a wonderful thing to put those in pain, stress into natures awesome embrace!
I started out in a horticulture therapy program 30 years ago and from day one I knew my attachment to gardening was a fit. I am still amazed and enthusiastic of what happens in the garden. Now I want to experience what I can do to help others find the comfort that has given me so much pleasure.

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over 5 years ago

How can I get people more involved in gardening. Or at least feeling a sense of wonder when in the garden. How can I get more skilled people in the garden business.
I want people to see its a good occupation and we can charge enough to make a living.

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almost 6 years ago

I am currently unemployed, having been laid off from an HT and grounds position at a retirement facility in North Carolina. It totally came as a surprise, as I had been employed there for what would have been 4 days shy of 4 years. I went into a meeting 4 days after Christmas, thinking it was my yearly evaluation and came out of that meeting unemployed due to budget cuts! I am very positive about an opportunity to create an entire HT program for the health care system in our area. The hospital has had extensive renovations and additions,with a Cancer Center, Rehabilitation and Day Surgery Unit now available to residents of the community. What is even more amazing is that sitting right on top of the main building, which used to be all the hospital there was back in the 20's when it was constructed is a glass greenhouse! Totally empty! My challenge is actually myself. This is a golden opportunity to do so much good, but I will admit I am very apprehensive about the "sell", so to speak! I do not want to mess this opportunity up!