Horticulture therapy (i.e., social and therapeutic horticulture) is the act of gardening and other landscape and plant based activities that are made easier through the instruction of a trained therapist. The horticulture therapist, who is typically certified by the American Horticultural Therapy Association, facilitates activities with individuals in order to reach specified goals for their treatment. This type of treatment is unique in that it brings individuals to a place to enjoy the visual beauty of plants. The aesthetics of nature and plants are linked to eliciting feelings of peace, which then allows for increased feelings of positive emotions, including hope and happiness. The therapy focuses on direct contact with flora and nature, which allows for the patient to reduce their stress levels, which in turn enhances their quality of life overall.
How Horticulture Therapy Evolved into Practice
People have engaged in activity involving horticulture in order to calm themselves since 2000 BC. Individuals began to enjoy themselves due to the soothing sensations they felt when gardening, which are attributed to the fragrance, aesthetic beauty, fluid movement of water, and mild temperatures. The American Horticultural Therapy Association claims that ancient Egyptians treated individuals with mental illness with walks through gardens. Dr. Benjamin Rush used horticulture as a treatment for individuals with mental illness in the 1800s. This marks the first modern use of horticultural therapy as a treatment for individuals with mental issues. Dr. Rush found that labor in a field and farm setting achieved increasingly positive outcomes for individuals with mental illness.
Modern Use of Horticulture Therapy
Horticulture therapy is currently an accepted and accredited treatment in most countries across the world including Sweden, Italy, Germany, Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. There are training programs across the world that are accredited to train and license horticultural therapists. The first degree program in horticultural therapy was developed in 1972 at Kansas State University. The program at Kansas State University provided training in both horticulture and psychology. Currently, the programs that deliver education to horticulture therapists is governed by the American Horticulture Therapy Association. The American Horticulture Therapy Association is an organization that is non-profit. The American Horticulture Therapy Association allows for horticultural therapists to become professionally registered within their association.
For more information visit the American Horticulture Therapy Association’s Website. You may also be interested in visiting their page regarding their practices and mission.