Horticultural Therapy is an alternative or a supplementation to traditional talk therapy, similar to Equine Therapy or Art Therapy.  Therapeutic gardening is a time-proven and highly researched practice that can assist in the healing of a vast array of mental and physical health issues in all age groups.  From PTSD to autism to physical rehabilitation, horticultural therapy helps heal by engaging clients in various plant-based activities.  It also promotes community and socialization skills.  Therapeutic gardens can be found in various settings including hospitals, prisons, drug rehab facilities, and community gardens dedicated to various non-profits or other healthcare facilities.  Here’s a great resource if you’re interested in learning more: https://www.ahta.org/horticultural-therapy

Currently, Colorado Springs does not have any Therapeutic Gardens dedicated to this profession.  However, there are a few in Boulder, Denver, and Fort Collins.  In fact, when I was in college, I volunteered at a program in Denver.  It was called The Dandelion Project, sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center (https://childlawcenter.org/).  The program was dedicated to providing a healthy, pressure-free environment with trustworthy adults to children involved in the foster care system.  I found it immensely rewarding and the experience has stuck with me.

In July this year, I happily took an opportunity presented by John Olson to switch gears in my career.  He and I were introduced by a mutual friend when I struggling to find meaning in my work as a Residential Landscape Designer.  Our mutual friend wanted me to meet John, describing him as someone who always finds a way to make his work meaningful. 

As a general rule, I detest networking (who doesn’t?), but I made an exception as I was feeling a bit desperate and trapped. I loved many aspects of my career but was increasingly frustrated that I couldn’t seem to meet my clients’ expectations.  Or maybe, they weren’t meeting mine.  Either way, I felt a strong need for therapeutic gardening and to do something that had a social impact. 

When I first met John, nearly a year ago, I had just begun pursuing a certification to become a Registered Horticultural Therapist.  With a degree from Colorado State University (Fort Collins) in Landscape Horticulture and Design, several years of experience working professionally as a gardener, completing the Colorado Master Gardeners Course, and a desire to help heal those in need, Horticultural Therapy seemed a perfect fit.

I did not expect a job offer to come from my networking with John, but as it turned out, he was looking for someone with a strong horticulture background to add to his new company, Urban Landscapes.  After taking some time to think about it, I concluded that this was a perfect solution for my need for a more impactful career.  I could further develop my skillset as a designer and “horticulture specialist” while working on projects that have a positive impact on my community. 

So now, I’m really excited to have a clear path forward in pursuing the type of work I’d like to be involved in.  In the coming years, I hope to become a licensed Landscape Architect and continue my education in Horticulture Therapy through CSU’s Horticultural Therapy Institute (https://www.htinstitute.org/). Although I’ll be approaching this field as a designer, instead of a therapist, I am confident that I will find great satisfaction in contributing to something that I believe will elevate our community and helps those who need it most. 

Therapeutic gardening can assist in the healing of a vast array of mental and physical health issues in all age groups.