First group of horticultural therapy students graduates from DelVal

Jul 30, 2013

Brennan Dougherty
Brennan Dougherty, a horticultural therapy certificate recipient, with planters grown by residents at the Philadelphia Veterans Community Living Center. The DelVal horticultural therapy students worked with residents to plant the planters with the vegetables and herbs that were grown in the College’s greenhouse.


Seven students received their certificates in horticultural therapy at DelVal this May. The group is the first to complete the College’s 14-credit horticultural therapy certificate. The program began in 2010 and is offered through the College’s Office of Continuing Education.

Horticultural therapy is the engagement of a person in gardening-related activities, facilitated by a trained therapist, to achieve specific treatment goals. DelVal’s certificate program provides traditional and non-traditional students with unique educational and professional opportunities to benefit special populations, as well as the general public, through therapeutic horticulture. Some of the larger employers of horticultural therapists are: nursing homes, assisted living facilities and day treatment programs.

The graduates include: Alessandro Cesario, Brennan Dougherty, Erin Hamme, Gwen Lyons, Jennifer Grassi, Julie Longenecker, Tiffany VanCamp.

The certificate program is accredited by the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA). DelVal is one of only eight schools in the U.S. that offers an AHTA accredited certificate program.

Students complete three courses in horticultural therapy with hands-on learning and two courses in horticulture. 

As part of their coursework, students conducted horticultural therapy sessions at the Philadelphia Veterans Community Living Center (CLC) under the supervision of their professors, Dr. Mingwang Liu and Nancy Minich.

Students worked with a diverse group of veterans to develop goals and specific activities for the sessions; prepared supplies; and led the activities. Some of the graduates are continuing to volunteer this summer. Dr. Liu and Minich would like to continue to develop the horticultural therapy program for the VA.

Each of the sessions offered different activities including: taking cuttings and repotting houseplants; developing a formal flower arrangement; and planting vegetables and herbs in containers for the outdoor areas.

“The smiles and happy faces of these veterans could never be conveyed in words,” said Minich. “The flowers and plants provided sensory gratification through the stimulation of smells and the textures and colors and opened the door for discussions about their past experiences with plants and flowers. Many veterans looked forward to the group. Likewise, the students gained invaluable therapeutic experience and were humbled by some of America’s lesser-known heroes from World War II to Afghanistan.”

Professional Registration (Horticultural Therapist-Registered) is the highest designation a horticultural therapist can achieve. This designation signifies that professional competencies have been achieved based on standardized academic requirements and professional training.

To become registered, a person must hold a bachelor’s degree in a related field and complete additional college-level courses specified by AHTA, as well as a 480-hour internship under the supervision of Horticultural Therapist-Registered (HTR).

Most of this year’s certificate program graduates already hold a bachelor’s degree in a related field, while several students will need to complete their undergraduate degrees if they wish to become professionally registered.

One graduate has completed her internship hours at Inglis House, a Philadelphia long-term care facility, and Abramson Center for Jewish Life, a residential facility in Horsham, Pa.  Minich, who has been a registered Horticultural Therapist since 1977, provided the oversight for part of the internship.

Two additional certificate program graduates have started their HTR internships.

Learn more:
The Horticultural Therapy program will be starting its next group of students in the certificate program this fall in “Introduction to Horticultural Therapy” a three-credit course. It is the first course in a series of three concurrent courses.

To learn more about the program contact Dr. Mingwang Liu at 215.489.2293 or at or visit