Education and Training Requirements
You can begin to prepare for this career while you are still in high school. Science classes are important to take, including biology, chemistry, and earth science, which should all give you a basic understanding of growth processes. If your school offers agriculture classes, particularly those dealing with plants, be sure to take these as well. To learn about different groups of people and how to relate to them, take sociology and psychology classes. English classes will help you develop your communication skills, which are vital in this profession. Other important classes that will prepare you for college and work include mathematics, economics, and computer science.
Horticultural therapy has only fairly recently been recognized as a profession in this country (the first graduate degree in the field was given in 1955), and routes to enter this field have not yet become firmly established. To become registered by the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA), however, you will need at least some related educational experience. Those in the field recommend that anyone wanting to work as a horticultural therapist should have, at a minimum, a bachelor's degree. Only a few colleges offer degrees in horticultural therapy with a concentration in horticultural therapy. AHTA provides a listing of schools offering these programs on its Web site, https://www.ahta.org/university-programs. Course work generally includes studies in botany, plant pathology, soil science, psychology, group dynamics, counseling, communications, business management, and economics, to name a few areas. In addition, an internship involving direct work with clients is usually required.
Some schools and horticulture organizations offer certificates in horticultural therapy. Those that are accredited by the AHTA include Delaware Valley University, University of Florida, Horticultural Therapy Institute, New York Botanical Garden, Portland Community College, Rutgers University, and Temple University. Visit http://ahta.org/ahta-accredited-certificate-programs for more information.
Other Education or Training
The American Horticultural Therapy Association provides continuing education workshops at its annual conference. Contact the association for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Voluntary certification is offered in the form of registration by the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA). To qualify for professional registration, applicants must have a bachelor's degree in horticultural therapy or an equivalent degree, and 480 hours of supervised internship experience. They must also be AHTA members at the associate level. Once their registration is approved, they must renew their membership each year at the professional level to maintain professional registration. Currently no licensing exists for horticultural therapists.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Experience as an intern, volunteer, or part-time employee at a hospital, rehabilitation center, or other institution that employs horticultural therapists is recommended.
Horticultural therapists must have a strong desire to help people, enjoy working with diverse populations, and be able to see each client as an individual. Just as important, of course, horticultural therapists must have an interest in science, a love of nature, and a "green thumb." These therapists need to be creative, perceptive, and able to manage groups. They must be able to interact with a variety of professionals, such as doctors, social workers, administrators, and architects, and work well as part of a team. As therapists, they may develop close emotional relationships with their clients, but they must also stop themselves from becoming emotionally over involved and realize the limits of their responsibilities. This work can often be quite physical, involving lifting and carrying, outdoor work, and work with the hands, so horticultural therapists should be in good physical shape.