Gerontology: Horticultural Therapy Certificate

bee pollenating a flower

This certificate provides the knowledge and skills to work as horticultural therapists or therapy assistants with diverse populations in therapeutic gardens and horticultural therapy programs within pediatric, geriatric, psychiatric, offender, vocational and medical rehabilitation, and other day or residential treatment and care facilities and activity programs. The certificate would also enhance the skills of activity, health and human services professionals. Successful completion of the Certificate prepares students for designation as a Horticultural Therapist Registered (HTR) by the American Horticultural Therapy Association, when combined with a Bachelor’s degree including 18 credits of human science and 18 credits of horticulture on the approved AHTA list.

The credits earned in this Certificate apply toward the Gerontology AAS Degree. Pre-requisite: GED or high school diploma.

Industry Certification

Licensing and certification are not currently required to be a horticultural therapist or assistant. The American Horticultural Therapy Association, however, offers voluntary professional registration for horticultural therapists that meet specific education and experience criteria. The PCC Horticultural Therapy Certificate is designed to prepare students to be eligible for the Horticultural Therapist Registered (HTR) designation, and encourages students to take the 18 credits of human science and 18 credits of horticulture approved by AHTA through PCC Gerontology, Social Sciences, Landscape Design, and other programs and departments.

For further information, see these documents:

The Need

Horticultural therapists and assistants design, implement, and evaluate therapeutic garden and horticultural therapy programs, and often work in interdisciplinary teams with occupational, physical, recreational, speech and language, and rehabilitative therapists, psychologists, doctors, psychiatrists and other medical and health professionals. Horticultural therapists and assistants work in a range of healthcare, rehabilitative, and residential settings including the long term care spectrum, rehabilitation centers and programs, day care, community and senior centers, parks and recreation programs, hospitals and clinics, community garden programs, special education, drug and alcohol programs, corrections, psychiatric programs, hospice and end of life care, in-home services, and domestic violence and trauma centers.

student smelling a plant

Horticultural therapy is particularly effective with older adults suffering from cognitive decline and dementia, physical frailty, chronic conditions, and in recovery from cancer, stroke, surgery, and other conditions. Horticultural therapy is also integrated into programs for people with physical, mental/psychiatric, and developmental disabilities, as well as at risk youth, substance abusers, offenders, abused populations, and the visually impaired.

Extensive research in a variety of settings and with a variety of populations on the restorative and healing benefits of horticultural therapy, therapeutic gardens, and the range of eco-therapies is expected to drive the growth of this professional field as a critical component of interdisciplinary teams in treatment, healthcare, rehabilitation, community services, wellness promotion, and activity programs.

The increased employment prospects for professionals and paraprofessionals, like horticultural therapists and assistants, working with the aging population has already been documented in the labor market information for the Activity Professional Career Pathway Certificates and for the Advanced Behavioral and Cognitive Care Certificate. The need for horticultural therapists and assistants with other social populations, particularly in healthcare and rehabilitation is expected to experience a comparable increase, as documented by the American Horticultural Therapy Association.

Job Titles

Horticultural therapists and assistants work under the following job titles:

  • Registered Horticultural Therapist
  • Horticultural Therapy Assistant
  • Therapeutic Garden/Horticulture Program Specialist
  • Therapeutic Garden/Horticulture Program Coordinator
  • Horticultural Activities Specialist
  • Community or Facility Garden Program Coordinator

Horticultural therapy could also be an enhancement or one component of the following job titles:

  • Life Enrichment Coordinator
  • Activity Professional (Activity Assistant, Director, or Consultant)
  • Rehabilitation Program Coordinator
  • Environmental Educator
  • Restorative Environment Designer
  • Occupational, Physical, or Recreation Therapist or Assistant
  • Psychologist, psychiatrist, physiatrist, and other medical and health professionals

Salarieshorticulture students

Horticultural therapists and assistants work as contractors or on a salary basis. Their work as therapists or assistants may stand alone, or be part of a more general job description. From a survey of the Legacy Horticultural Therapy Certificate (prior to the contract and transcription of credits through PCC), contractors earn between $18 and $50 per hour. Salaried positions typically range from $30,000 to $50,000 per year.

Contract with Legacy Health

Through a contract between Portland Community College and Legacy Health, the Legacy Health Horticultural Therapy and Therapeutic Gardens Program offers the six therapeutic horticulture courses (13 credits) that form the core of the Horticultural Therapy Certificate. An article appearing in the July-August issue of The American Gardener, “Teresia Hazen: Helping Patients Recover through Gardening,” describes the Legacy Health program and the horticultural therapy courses offered through PCC. For further information on the Legacy Program, contact the Coordinator, Teresia Hazen, MEd, HTR, QMHP, at 503-413-6507 or thazen@lhs.org.

Industry Certification

The Legacy Health System Therapeutic Horticulture Certificate Program, which includes the six therapeutic horticulture courses required by the AHTA that are transcribed for college credit through PCC, are taught on campus at Legacy Hospitals in Portland, Oregon. This program is accredited by AHTA through April 30, 2014.

Licensing and certification are not currently required to be a horticultural therapist or assistant. The American Horticultural Therapy Association, however, offers voluntary professional registration for horticultural therapists that meet specific education and experience criteria. The PCC Horticultural Therapy Certificate is designed to prepare students to be eligible for the Horticultural Therapist Registered (HTR) designation, and encourages students to take the 18 credits of human science and 18 credits of horticulture approved by AHTA through PCC Gerontology, Social Sciences, Landscape Design, and other programs and departments.instructor and students in horticulture class

The Oregon State University Horticulture Department offers an option in Therapeutic Horticulture with a BS in Horticulture that includes the six core therapeutic horticulture courses offered through PCC. PCC and OSU are in the process of forming an articulation agreement to provide a pathway to the BS that would qualify PCC Horticultural Therapy Certificate graduates for registration with the AHTA.

Other Partners

In addition to the Legacy Horticultural Therapy and Therapeutic Garden Program, the AHTA, PCC Landscape Design Department, and the OSU Horticulture Department, the following employers and organizations are partners in this Certificate:

  • Metro Activity Professionals
  • Portland Memory Garden
  • Garden Partners
  • Providence Medical Centers and Long Term Care Facilities
  • Cedar Sinai Park
  • Oregon Health Care Association
  • Oregon Alliance of Senior and Health Services
  • Partner employers in the Jobs to Careers in Community Based Care Project, including:
    • Rose Schnitzer Manor
    • Marquis Companies
    • Farmington Companies
    • Concepts in Community Living: Taft House
    • Providence Orchard House

Next Steps

For more information and guidance on getting started on the Horticultural Therapy Certificate of Completion, as well as for transcript evaluation and assessment of prior experience and training –

  • Contact Jan Abushakrah, Gerontology Program Director, 971-722-4077, jabushak@pcc.edu

If you'd like to start working on a certificate or degree and would like some guidance about the courses you should take and if previous coursework can apply toward your completion, ask for Transcript Evaluation and Course Planning.