Our team had a fantastic day at Stanley Park with Cliff. We started it with a mindful stretch on the beach that relaxed our mind and body and opened our senses. We then proceeded to an adventurous walk in the forest, exploring secret hideaways and venturing the less-taken paths. We shared stories and learned how to incorporate nature into self-care. Being in nature itself is very therapeutic, and we cannot think of a better way to learn and experience improving our mental and physical well-being.  We all need a day like that, and Cliff helped us to see how easy and possible we can make it happen!

J. Chen – Children, Parenting  and Youth Programs, MOSAIC

Cliff 20181012 Opa 1


That’s me with my arms wrapped around OPA, a magnificent 1,000 year old Douglas Fir that lives on Bowen Island, BC. Interacting with nature is good for our health and well-being. Nature is healing, grounding, offers moments of solitude and year round stimulation of our senses. It can provide an escape from technostress and diverse opportunities to interact with the natural environment around us

What is Horticultural Therapy (HT)?

Horticultural Therapy (HT) is a formal practice that uses plants, horticultural activities, and the garden landscape to promote well-being for its participants. HT is goal orientated with defined outcomes and assessment procedures. HT sessions are administered by professionally trained horticultural therapists.

What is Therapeutic Horticulture (TH)?

Therapeutic Horticulture (TH) is the purposeful use of plants and plant-related activities to promote health and wellness for an individual or group. A TH program leader is trained to use horticulture to promote well-being but goals and outcomes for individual participants are not clinically documented.

Source: Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association (CHTA)

What are the benefits of HT/TH?

HT/TH can provide

  • a stress-reducing environment to connect safely with others helping to reduce feelings of isolation or exclusion
  • accessible, calming, satisfying activities for coping with addiction and promoting recovery
  • structure to facilitate healing and recovery for individuals who have experienced loss and/or trauma (including traumatic loss)
  • nature-based art activities to inspire natural creativity
  • opportunities to acquire skills (horticultural, communication, and thinking) that could lead to employment
  • a purpose for the existence of community gardens helping to build community pride and connection
  • programming for children and youth to learn about food gardening and the natural habitat around them
  • guidelines for designing inclusive, safe, healing and therapeutic outdoor spaces
  • nature therapy (forest bathing) promoting increased awareness and connection to natural elements like trees, plants, stones, waterways and wildlife

Special population groups that can benefit from therapeutic horticultural practice include

  • stroke, spinal chord and physical disabilities
  • traumatic brain injury
  • developmental disabilities
  • mental illness
  • children and youth
  • older persons
  • substance abuse and offender rehabilitation

My connection with horticulture began more than 15 years ago when I completed a Horticulture and Landscape Design Certificate program at Capilano University in North Vancouver BC. After graduating, my horticultural skills and passion for nature continued to grow. I have worked for the City of West Vancouver as a seasonal gardener, a nursery specializing in perennials, and facilitated workshops on container garden design and art in the garden. I also operated my own garden design business for 7 years. In my own garden, I have a passion for growing herbs and then using them for medicinal and culinary purposes.

In 2019 I completed Horticultural Therapy Professional Development training and am currently completing a HT Internship under the supervision of Ann Kent, HTM, a Registered Master Horticultural Therapist. I’m also an active member of the CHTA and the West Vancouver Streamkeeper Society.

Email/call me to discuss how we can use HT/TH to promote well-being for yourself and your organization’s members.

Cliff Thorbes

(604) 684 – 0584