Horticultural Therapist

Horticultural Therapists use horticultural activities and environments to positively influence human well-being, emotions, health and behaviour. People helped by Horticultural Therapists may include those who have physical disabilities, mental health problems and learning difficulties, those recovering from major injuries or illnesses, and elderly people. Programmes can also be developed for the rehabilitation of offenders or those suffering from drug or alcohol abuse.

Horticultural Therapists often work in conjunction or liaison with other professionals such as psychologists and social workers.

To be a Horticultural Therapist you need:

  • enthusiasm for and a keen interest in horticulture; preferably a qualification
  • patience, tolerance and understanding
  • the ability to relate positively and respectfully to all kinds of people
  • the ability to encourage and motivate
  • the ability to teach various skills
  • the ability to make the most of limited budgets
  • awareness of health and safety issues

Most programmes developed by Horticultural Therapists are tailored to the needs of individual clients; programme aims might include

  • developing confidence, self-esteem, practical or social skills
  • encouraging social inclusion
  • learning or re-learning basic skills including numeracy and literacy
  • providing sensory stimuli
  • providing supportive outdoor activity and exercise to restore strength and mobility after an accident or illness
  • provision of tranquil, restorative environments

Horticultural Therapists provide support for clients, and demonstrate skills as a part of the process of encouraging them to achieve their objectives and monitoring their progress. Sometimes, Horticultural Therapists will provide additional support to clients who themselves study for horticultural qualifications.

Staff and volunteer management; sourcing funding; developing project proposals may also be part of a Horticultural Therapist’s remit.

Typical Jobs or Career Paths

Specific qualifications in Horticultural Therapy are relatively new. Most Horticultural Therapists have started their careers by gaining skills and experience in another area, for example in horticulture or in professions such as social work, occupational therapy, nursing or teaching. Those who started out in horticulture must then develop their social care skills and knowledge; those who started in caring professions must then work on their horticultural skills and knowledge.

The additional experience required, whichever discipline was the starting point, can be obtained via several routes, such as:

  • Studying on short courses and undertaking voluntary work at a social and therapeutic horticulture project
  • Studying on longer courses and obtaining a qualification in social and therapeutic horticulture, although such courses are only available at a very few colleges.

There are a few college based courses suitable for those who have yet to attain any qualifications; admission to the courses will be based on commitment and suitability of the candidate.

A limited number of courses at university level are available for study and/or training in Horticultural Therapy. Entry requirements will vary depending on the nature of the course.

Career options include –

Jobs in Horticultural Therapy are often not widely advertised. Jobs for Horticultural Therapists may be advertised under other job titles – perhaps Project Worker or Horticultural Trainer.

Some examples of where a Horticultural Therapist might work include day services/community based projects; residential care establishments; rehabilitation units; hospitals; prisons; charitable and voluntary organisations; schools and specialist colleges.

Remuneration and Advancement Opportunities

Working hours vary, and may include weekends and evenings. Part-time hours may be available. Salaries will vary between employers and will also depend if you are working in private practice or for a government organization. Figures vary from country to country and the role will slightly differ from country to country.

Professional Bodies

Membership of Professional bodies is useful to encourage networking and that you are kept up to date with current trends. Some will require an annual fee to join, whilst others will require evidence of your educational attainment and experience. Some will offer reduced fees for students. Possible organizations will include horticultural, counselling, social and psychological professional bodies, depending on the level of training in each discipline.

Career Risks

There are risks associated with every career. Working with the disadvantaged, disabled or mentally ill can be stressful and demanding. Also, there may be situations where the client can display challenging and violent behaviour. However, you would be trained to deal with those sorts of situations and would often receive supervisory support to deal with any emotional or stressful difficulties you may face.

Recommended Courses

ACS offers courses in both psychology and horticulture and a few that you may find useful are detailed below.


Advanced Certificate in Psychology http://www.acsedu.co.uk/courses/product.aspx?id=472

The course is divided into 9 modules/subjects as follows: 2 x Core (compulsory)

Modules: Introduction to Psychology, Psychology and Counselling and six elective modules from - Industrial Psychology, Educational Psychology, Sports Psychology, Child Psychology, Biopsychology I, Marketing Psychology, Conflict Management, Research Project 1 plus Industry experience 100 hours. This Advanced Certificate is accredited through the International Accreditation and Recognition Council. This course can be counted towards credit for higher qualifications with ACS Distance Education, Warnborough University and other ACS affiliate institutions.

Associate Diploma in Psychology http://www.acsedu.co.uk/courses/product.aspx?id=441

This course is different and unique, allowing you to gain a solid and broad base foundation in theoretical psychology at the same time as developing a variety of practical skills that will be useful in the workplace. Graduates are not psychologists (A psychologist needs higher university qualifications), but they will have a capacity to apply psychology in real life situations (e.g. as a manager, a counsellor, a marketer or a consultant). The course is divided into 15 modules. Seven compulsory modules must be undertaken by all students, and eight electives can be selected from a range of options listed below. Compulsory modules include Introduction to Psychology, Psychology and Counselling, Counselling Techniques, Industrial Psychology, Child Psychology, Research Project, Industry Meetings (e.g. Seminars, conferences) or Work Experience (e.g. volunteer counselling). Eight elective modules also need to be chosen.

DIPLOMA IN COUNSELLING & PSYCHOLOGY http://www.acsedu.co.uk/courses/product.aspx?id=468

This course is a vocational course aimed at those who wish to pursue a career in counselling. As such, it contains a practical element that not only complements the theory, but also prepares the student for real-life counselling situations. It is anticipated that graduates of this course will seek probationary employment in counselling. This course is recognised as an ACA approved counsellor training course. Duration: 1500 hours

Educational Psychology http://www.acsedu.co.uk/courses/product.aspx?id=392

This course will benefit a wide range of people, including:
-parents in developing a better understanding of how their children develop
-teachers, training officers or any other educationists involved in the education of children or adults
-welfare workers or recreation officers (voluntary or professional) in developing a better understanding of the educational development of persons they deal with.

Details of further ACS DE courses may be found at:

Horticulture http://www.acsedu.co.uk/courses/horti.aspx

Psychology and Counselling http://www.acsedu.co.uk/psychol/