Portland Community College Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Gerontology Program

Horticultural Therapy Program

COVID-19 impacts

GRN166 Therapeutic Horticulture (CRN 26264) has been redesigned as a remote course and will be offered online through D2L Brightspace. The class will meet from May 11 through June 13. See the flyer below or contact Jan Abushakrah for further information or assistance registering.

Horticultural Therapy Sequence

  • Four terms: 6 courses, 14 credits
  • Format: Online and Remote Delivery, with Zoom conferencing (recorded), videos and other enhancements
  • Textbooks: THAS textbooks
  • Registration and further information: Jan Abushakrah, Gerontology Department Chair

Melissa Bierman engages in horticultural therapy with a client.

Core therapeutic horticulture courses now offered online and remotely in 4 terms

In the summer 2020 term, PCC will begin a new 4-term sequence of the core therapeutic horticulture courses in an online and remote format. Online content has been enhanced by Zoom conferencing, breakout group-work, videos of gardens and HT processes, guest lecturers, and more. The originally scheduled class meeting dates on Friday evenings and Saturdays are now reserved for pre- scheduled remote meetings that will also be recorded. Additional remote contact, as needed, will be scheduled within each course.

See the detailed 2020-2021 schedule of online courses and prescheduled remote meetings

PCC's unique horticultural therapy program

PCC provides both the core HT requirements for registration as a horticultural therapist (HTR) and a therapeutic horticulture activity specialist certificate for students not yet meeting the AHTA HTR requirements, enabling them to develop the knowledge and skills to utilize therapeutic horticulture with diverse populations in a variety of settings.

AHTA accredited horticultural therapy certificate program

Our HT program  is an American Horticultural Therapy Association accredited certificate program, which prepares students to apply for the Horticultural Therapist-Registered (HTR) designation.

Therapeutic Horticulture Activity Specialist certificate

PCC incorporates the accredited core HT course sequence into the Therapeutic Horticulture Activity Specialist certificate, which prepares students not yet eligible for HTR status 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 evaluate 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 AHTA.

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.


Our HT Program offers internship opportunities meeting AHTA standards and supervised by an HTR. See AHTA Internship Handbook.

Three other Portland area AHTA listed internship programs with an onsite HTR are Legacy Health Therapeutic Garden Program, Teresia Hazen, HTR, Coordinator, Therapeutic Garden Program, THazen@lhs.org, 503-413-6507, Earthtones NW, Genevieve Layman, HTR, Horticultural Therapy Program Director, genevieve@earthtonesnw.com, 503-284-6794, and Unity Center for Behavioral Health, Melissa Bierman, melissa.bierman@pcc.edu.

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 Melissa Bierman 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 programs and 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 is in the process of developing our Therapeutic Learning Garden (TLG), the first healing and learning garden of its kind on a college campus. However, due to current budgeting challenges, fundraising and other development activities have been suspended until Summer 2019.

When completed, the garden will provide pioneering, replicable curricula for creating healing sanctuaries and vibrant learning environments. It 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.