Social & Therapeutic Horticulture

The benefits of gardening are undisputed, but it is the therapy involved in Thrive’s programmes which define them. Therapeutic programmes are delivered by an individual who has expertise and training in both horticulture and therapy.

Social and therapeutic horticulture is the process of using plants and gardens to improve physical and mental health, as well as communication and thinking skills.

It also uses the garden as a safe and secure place to develop someone's ability to mix socially, make friends and learn practical skills that will help them to be more independent.

Gardening offers an amazing spectrum of health and well-being benefits on which to draw.

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How does it work?

Thrive therapists create a set of activities for each gardener to improve their particular health needs, and to work on certain goals they want to achieve.

This can be at a garden project, where they are referred and funded by their doctor, social worker or care professional. Or it can be through their own initiative, or via a place funded by family and friends.

Garden projects can be small informal places, perhaps organised and run by volunteers, or they can be more formal, larger organisations and charities, run by permanent staff. Projects may have their own site or they may share facilities, perhaps within a garden centre or nursery. There are also garden projects in the grounds of prisons or hospitals.

Alternatively the therapist may design activities for gardening at home, perhaps by starting with a simple idea like planting a small container or window box, or growing some herbs on a sunny window sill.

Ongoing benefits

The benefits of a sustained and active interest in gardening include:

  1. Better physical health through exercise and learning how to use or strengthen muscles to improve mobility

  2. Improved mental health through a sense of purpose and achievement

  3. The opportunity to connect with others – reducing feelings of isolation or exclusion

  4. Acquiring new skills to improve the chances of finding employment

  5. Just feeling better for being outside, in touch with nature and in the 'great outdoors'

Training, research and development

Many therapists working at garden projects have completed specialist training programmes in social and therapeutic horticulture, such as Thrive's training and education programme and the Professional Development Diploma run in conjunction with Coventry University. They may also hold other professional qualifications in areas such as horticulture, health and social care, teaching, occupational therapy or nursing.

Thrive is highly active in research, development and promotion of social and therapeutic horticulture. Its aim is to continually improve the methods of working with disabled people and spread awareness, such as through this web site, of the power gardening has.

Want to know more?

If you, or someone you know could benefit from social and therapeutic horticulture, call Thrive on 0118 988 5688 to find out how they can help.

Thrive can also help if you would like to know more about a career in social and therapeutic horticulture or if you would like details of courses and Diplomas. Just call the number above or email

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