Gerontology Program

Horticultural Therapy Program

Spring into Nature with Florence Williams

Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Sylvania CC Cafeteria and Therapeutic Learning Garden site
Register for the event

Learn more about the Spring into Nature event »

Melissa Bierman engages in horticultural therapy with a client.

The Horticultural Therapy Program began in 2008 in collaboration with Legacy Health’s Therapeutic Gardens and Horticultural Therapy Program, led and inspired by Teresia Hazen, who taught the core horticultural therapy courses and supervised internships in Legacy’s 14 therapy gardens. In the Winter 2018 term, the HT program will be transplanted to the PCC Sylvania Campus.

Our HT Program prepares students for the Horticultural Therapist-Registered (HTR) designation with the American Horticultural Therapy Association, and provides students not yet meeting the AHTA HTR requirements the opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills to work as therapeutic horticulture activity specialists with diverse populations in a variety of settings.

AHTA Accredited Certificate Program

PCC’s Horticultural Therapy Program is an AHTA Accredited Certificate Program, through Legacy Health until June 2019, when PCC will renew the accreditation.

Therapeutic Horticulture Activity Specialist Certificate

This certificate prepares students to work as therapeutic horticulture activity specialists with diverse populations in therapeutic gardens and horticultural therapy programs within pediatric, geriatric, psychiatric, offender, vocational and medical rehabilitation facilities, and other day or residential treatment and care facilities and activity or life enrichment programs.

The coursework serves to enhance the skills of health and human services professionals, with training and education in related fields of rehabilitation, treatment, therapy and care.

Finally, the certificate offers horticultural therapy education for professionals who design, implement, and evaluated therapeutic garden and horticultural programs, and often work in interdisciplinary teams with occupational, physical and recreational therapists and other health and human services professionals. When combined with a Bachelor’s or higher degree including 18 credits of human sciences and 18 credits of horticulture on the approved AHTA list, and an AHTA-approved 480-hour internship, the certificate prepares a student for designation as a Horticultural Therapist-Registered (HTR) by the American Horticultural Therapy Association (see details, below).

The credits earned in this Career Pathway Certificate apply toward the Gerontology AAS Degree. Prerequisite: GED or high school diploma.

Gerontology: Therapeutic Horticulture Activity Specialist (THAS) Certificate. Note that PCC Human Sciences and Horticulture classes that meet AHTA standards are listed in this description.

Therapeutic horticulture “is the participation in horticultural activities facilitated by a registered horticultural therapist or other professionals with training in the use of horticulture as a therapeutic modality to support program goals. Therapeutic horticulture is the process through which participants enhance their well-being through active or passive involvement in plant and plant-related activities.”

Horticultural therapy “is the participation in horticultural activities facilitated by a registered horticultural therapist to achieve specific goals within an established treatment, rehabilitation, or vocational plan. 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.” A horticultural therapist has “a foundation of knowledge in plant science, human science, and horticultural therapy principles, and professional experience in the application of horticultural therapy practices,” which would be established through the requirements for the professional credential Horticultural Therapist-Registered (HTR).

Definitions taken from AHTA Definitions.

Brian Bainnson, TLG Landscape Architect, and Melissa Bierman, PCC Horticultural Therapy Instructor, talk in the Portland Memory Garden.

Core Horticultural Therapy Courses

The core HT courses required by the AHTA are offered in a 6-course, 6-term sequence, with the first sequence taught on the Sylvania Campus beginning in the Winter 2018 term and ending in Spring 2019. These 2-3 credit courses are offered in a class-web or hybrid format, with full-day on-campus class meetings on 2-3 Saturdays. See the first HT core sequence schedule.


Our HT Program offers internship opportunities meeting AHTA standards and supervised by an HTR. See AHTA Internship Handbook. Two Portland area AHTA listed internship programs with an onsite HTR are Legacy Health Therapeutic Garden Program, Teresia Hazen, HTR, Coordinator, Therapeutic Garden Program,, 503-413-6507, and Earthtones NW, Genevieve Layman, HTR, Horticultural Therapy Program Director,, 503-284-6794. We can also connect students with off-site HTRs, in Oregon and possibly in neighboring states.

Certificate students who are not seeking HTR registration can find suitable locations to gain therapeutic horticulture experience, using the PCC Cooperative Education Internship system, through the Gerontology Program’s GRN280A Internship credits (4 credits of internship are required for the THAS certificate, representing 120 work hours). Contact for process details.

OSU Horticultural Program

Oregon State University’s Horticulture B.S. Degree offers a Therapeutic Horticulture option incorporating PCC’s core HT courses, GRN267-272. The B.S. Degree is a great option for students who need a Bachelor’s Degree for AHTA’s HTR registration.

Industry Certification for HT Professionals

Licensing and certification are not currently required to work as a horticultural therapist or assistant; however, the AHTA’s Horticultural Therapist-Registered (HTR) informs the public that the person practicing horticultural therapy has achieved professional competencies based on standardized academic requirements and professional training. PCC’s Therapeutic Horticulture Activity Specialist (THAS) Certificate prepares students to use therapeutic horticulture in life enrichment and activity departments in long-term care communities, to assist HTRs in the full spectrum of rehabilitation, treatment, and care settings, and to be eligible to apply for registration when they meet the other professional registration requirements. See the AHTA site for the professional registration requirements, the application and renewal process.

Therapeutic Learning Garden

Future site of the PCC Therapeutic Learning Garden, Sylvania Campus, west of the CC building cafeteria.

PCC’s Therapeutic Learning Garden (TLG), the first healing and learning garden of its kind on a college campus, is currently under development. When completed, it will provide pioneering, replicable curricula for creating healing sanctuaries and vibrant learning environments. The garden will become a cutting-edge hub of natural and neurological innovation that will benefit PCC faculty, staff and students, as well as surrounding neighborhood residents, the Portland Oregon metropolitan region, and beyond.

Sharing characteristics of all therapeutic gardens, this learning and healing garden will also offer:

  • Practicum Site for PCC’s horticultural therapy program
  • Nature-Neuro: PCC’s TLG has selected and embraced this term to capture the consilience of the nature and neuroscience research
  • Laboratory applying cutting edge research to design healing spaces and enriched learning activities
  • Formal and Informal Learning Spaces for multiple disciplines and programs
  • Training Site for professionals applying therapeutic horticulture
  • Demonstration Areas for home, business, health facility, school and park gardens
  • Natural Calming Setting for restoration, meditation, reflection and movement

The PCC Therapeutic Learning Garden is a partner of The Intertwine Alliance. See our partner website.

What’s Next?

  1. Request additional information.
  2. Request a meeting with a Gerontology Program advisor, now or whenever you want to check in.
  3. Apply for admission to PCC.
  4. Declare a Major. You can declare the AAS in Gerontology and any of our 7 certificates you wish to earn.
  5. Join the Gerontology Program to start receiving our eNewsletter, The Rocket.
  6. Transfer credits to PCC.
  7. Learn how to connect your passion with opportunities in the field by taking GRN181 Exploring the Field of Aging.

Are you a Gerontology Program graduate or a Community Partner, and would like to receive The Rocket, post a job opening or an internship opportunity, promote an event, or make a donation to the Gerontology Fund for Excellence? If so, please complete the Community Partners & Alumni form.