Therapeutic Horticulture

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 Therapeutic Horticulture?

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.

Source: American Horticultural Therapy Association

What are the benefits of Therapeutic Horticulture?

Therapeutic Horticulture 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 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 (especially lavender) and then using them for medicinal and culinary purposes.

In 2019 I completed Horticultural Therapy Professional Development training with Ann Kent, HTM, a Registered Master Horticultural Therapist. I am an active member of the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association and the West Vancouver Streamkeeper Society.


Email/call me to discuss how we can integrate therapeutic horticulture into your community’s or organization’s programs.

Cliff Thorbes

(604) 684 – 0584