Horticultural Therapy

HortAbility brings together plants and people for therapeutic and restorative benefits.  Using the principles of Horticultural Therapy, we engage with people of all abilities in gardening and plant-based activities to achieve specific goals and enrichment.  Plants are known to elicit feelings of inner peace which generates positive emotions towards a meaningful appreciation of life and enthusiasm for the future.  

What is Horticultural Therapy?

Horticultural Therapy (HT) is an evidence-based therapy using plants and plant maintenance to help people recover from physical and mental challenges. There are sub-categories of Horticultural Therapy:

Therapeutic or Rehabilitative:
Horticultural therapy is the engagement of a client in horticultural activities facilitated by a trained therapist to achieve specific and documented treatment goals. It is a process that uses plants and plant-related activities through which participants strive to improve their well-being through active or passive involvement. American Horticultural Therapy Association* believes that horticultural therapy is an active process which occurs in the context of an established treatment plan where the process itself is considered the therapeutic activity rather than the end product. Horticultural therapy programs can be found in a wide variety of healthcare, rehabilitative, and residential settings.

Social or Enrichment:
Social horticulture, sometimes referred to as an enrichment program, is a leisure or recreational activity related to plants and gardening. No treatment goals are defined, no therapist is present, and the focus is on social interaction and horticulture activities. A typical community garden, assisted living or garden club is a good example of a social horticulture setting.

A vocational HT program, which is often a major component of a horticultural therapy program, focuses on providing training that enables individuals to work in the horticulture industry professionally, either independently or semi-independently. These individuals may or may not have some type of disability. Vocational horticultural programs may be found in schools, residential facilities, or rehabilitation facilities, among others.

Who can benefit from Horticultural Therapy

We believe that youth and adults with physical or developmental disabilities can benefit from horticultural therapy in the following ways:

  • Cognitive: Improve concentration, stimulate memory, and improve attentional capacity
  • Psychological: Improve quality of life, improve sense of well-being, reduce stress, improve mood, decrease anxiety, Increase feelings of calm and relaxation, and increase feeling part of the world.
  • Social: increase social interaction, decrease isolation, improve social integration, and increase opportunities to be inclusive
  • Physical: Improve immune response, decrease stress, decrease heart rate, promote physical health, and improve motor skills

* American Horticultural Therapy Association – AHTA – https://www.ahta.org/