Horticultural therapists use horticultural activities as a tool for helping disadvantaged people. The therapy may be focused on either:

  • improving or maintaining muscle function, and other aspects of physical well being
  • psychological well being (eg. helping elderly people stay active in their declining years, helping disabled people to have a sense of worth, providing an opportunity for social interaction, etc)
  • providing people with impaired capabilities with an opportunity for employment (eg. In a sheltered workshop
  • providing a pathway to rehabilitation; or perhaps providing an alternative lifestyle.
  • developing practical skills
  • developing social skills
  • rehabilitation of physically or psychologically damaged individuals

Sometimes programs are developed with a group focus, and at other times they are tailored for the needs of an individual.  The therapist may work with a small group, or they may work one on one with individuals. They often work closely with health care professionals or other service providers  (eg. A physiotherapist may better understand the physical needs and limitations of an accident victim. A horticultural therapist working with a physiotherapist can develop a program of horticultural activities for an individual, that is tailored to their needs and leads to effective rehabilitation. The benefit of this “joint” approach may be that the patient can be prescribed a pathway to recovery that does not seem like exercise, and which the patient is more motivated to adhere to).

A horticultural therapist needs to be part horticulturist, part health care worker, part counselor, and sometimes other things beyond these.

Where Do they Work

They can work in medical or health care institutions (eg. Hospitals, Homes for Elderly), community centres, special schools (eg. For disabled or handicapped), Sheltered Workshop, Prisons, or any other relevant situation.

Opportunities & Risks

Opportunities arise for this type of work periodically in any place where you find disadvantaged people, including drug abuse victims, accident victims, disabled and handicapped people, the elderly, people suffering illnesses, etc.
Often the funding for horticultural therapy is dependent upon allocations by government or charities, though sometimes (eg. sheltered workshops), an enterprise may be able to generate income to partially or even fully fund itself, through production of plants or crops


Horticultural therapists may be employed by the healthcare sector and earn an annual salary. Alternatively, they may be self-employed and work as contractors for the healthcare sector. In some cases, there may be opportunities to establish small businesses perhaps servicing both government-funded clients and private clients.

Employees who work chiefly under other job titles may also offer horticultural therapy as part of their repertoire. For instance, psychologists, occupational therapists, activity co-ordinators, rehabilitation officers, as well as some others may all offer horticultural therapy services if they are trained to do so.  

The types of job titles for horticultural therapists vary quite widely and include such titles as:

  • Horticultural therapist
  • Horticultural therapy assistant
  • Garden therapist
  • Garden therapy co-ordinator
  • Horticultural therapy programme co-ordinator
  • Horticultural activities specialist

Given that most jobs in horticultural therapy have evolved from the healthcare sector, typically horticultural therapists are primarily healthcare workers with qualifications in this field, and horticulture is a secondary aspect. The level and depth of horticultural knowledge required by a horticultural therapist may vary quite significantly depending on the clientele to be serviced and the country in which one resides. In some instances, just a basic knowledge would suffice. Generally speaking, those wishing to move into this filed who come from a background in horticulture will need to learn skills and gain qualifications in healthcare, and vice-versa for those coming from the healthcare sector. It may be that horticultural therapy becomes one of a number of forms of therapy offered by one practitioner, others being things like music therapy, art therapy, literature therapy, and so forth.

Horticultural therapists employed by the healthcare sector are responsible for designing and undertaking horticultural therapy programmes. They also need to assess these programmes in terms of their effectiveness and usefulness, and make any necessary adjustments. As previously discussed, therapists will often find themselves working with a multidisciplinary team alongside other healthcare professionals. These other professionals may also play a role in the design of programmes to benefit clients undergoing horticultural therapy in conjunction with the horticultural therapist.

The types of employment settings include:

  • Private residences
  • Aged care residences
  • Aged care centres
  • Hospices
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Community centres
  • Parks and gardens
  • Prisons and remand centres
  • Schools and special schools

The type of work may include help with long-term care or day care programmes. These programmes could be involved with rehabilitation following surgery, rehabilitation of offenders, special programmes for people with specific conditions such as drug or alcohol problems, programmes for mentally or physically disabled individuals, palliative care programmes or programmes designed to help trauma victims or individuals with particular mental health disorders.

Much of the work for horticultural therapists falls into the aged care sector. This is largely because it has been found to be effective in rehabilitation from conditions which are more likely to affect the elderly e.g. recovery from stroke, surgery, or cancer. It is also effective in helping to slow the cognitive decline associated with dementia and to alleviate symptoms of other conditions associated with physical decline such as arthritis and osteoporosis. Other key sectors include prison populations where inmates may benefit from structured tasks and physical exercise, and youths who may have been removed from abusive families or relationships. 


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