- Rewarding work helping people improve their health or gain skills and confidence
- Combine a love for gardens with psychology and counselling skills
- You could include this in your work as an occupational therapist or specialise in horticultural therapy
Use gardening as a way of helping people improve their health and wellbeing or gain skills for work. You could work with people with physical disabilities, mental health problems and learning difficulties, elderly people, offenders and ex-offenders, or people recovering from drug or alcohol abuse, major injuries or illnesses.
- Develop clients' practical or social skills, confidence or self-esteem
- Adapt projects to the needs of clients
- Help clients to learn or re-learn basic skills, including numeracy and literacy
- Provide outdoor activity and exercise to restore strength and mobility after injury or illness
- Support clients to take horticultural qualifications or to move into employment
- Work closely with other professionals like psychologists and social workers
- Manage staff and volunteers
- Draw up proposals for projects
Your working hours will be variable, and could include weekends and evenings. You could be working in a garden, on a country estate or in a therapy clinic.
This role would be ideal for someone with knowledge of psychology, teaching and the ability to design courses; counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach; excellent verbal communication and leadership skills; sensitivity and understanding; and the ability to work well with their hands.
Going to university isn't essential for this role, but you could do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree course in horticulture. Some universities offer horticulture courses that include modules on social and therapeutic horticulture.
Paid or unpaid experience of working on a horticulture project would be helpful for a better understanding of the role, and to make contacts. Thrive and Do-it have details of voluntary opportunities.
You can also attend short courses run by Thrive, which is a national charity offering Step into Social and Therapeutic Horticulture workshops.
You might have an advantage if you are moving into this career from other areas of horticulture or jobs such as social care, occupational therapy, nursing or teaching.
You'll be working with vulnerable people, so you'll need Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) clearance.
You could use horticultural therapy as part of a wider role, like occupational therapy. With experience and further study, you could move into a supervisory role, or research. You could also become self-employed.