2019 AHTA Conference Sessions

Horticultural Therapy: Digging in Together
October 4-5, 2019, Pre-tours October 3
DoubleTree Grand Rapids Airport Hotel
Grand Rapids, Michigan

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Thursday, October 3

9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Pre-tour #1 - Frederik Meijer Gardens | Mast Young Greenhouses | River Walk Experience

Pre-tour # 2 - Blandford Nature Center | Benjamin's Hope | Lake Michigan Experience

9:00 am - 3:00 pm

Intern Supervisor's Workshop
Leigh Anne Starling, LCPC, CRC, HTR
Registration for the workshop is open to professionally registered horticultural therapists who are interested in supervising horticultural therapy interns. This 6-hour course will be facilitated by AHTA President Leigh Anne Starling and will cover: 

  • An overview of the AHTA Internship Guidelines
  • Enhancing and/or increasing your role as an intern supervisor
  • Providing an effective and rewarding supervision experience for the intern
  • Facilitating the goals and project requirement of an internship
  • Clinical and professional responsibilities of the supervisor
  • Intern project requirements with special emphasis on the case study requirement

Workshop content includes informational handouts about effective supervision, supervision strategies, case study examples, and the opportunity for group discussion. Pre-registration is required. A fee of $75 will cover handouts, lunch, and costs related to hosting this workshop. A certificate of attendance will be issued upon completion. 

You must be professionally registered with AHTA to attend this workshop.


Friday, October 4

8:45 am - 10:00 am

Keynote Presentation:
Increasing the Dose of Gardens in the Hospital
Steven Wells, RN, HT, Professional Horticulturalist
This talk will share the experiences of how Steven in his innovative role as Gardens Project Officer is increasing gardens and connections with nature for patients, their families and staff and is positively changing the therapeutic environment across Austin Health’s hospitals. 

  • Steven Wells, RN, HT, Professional Horticulturalist
    Steven Wells has successfully combined his nursing and horticulture careers to be working as a rehabilitation nurse, a horticultural therapist, and the Gardens and Grounds Program project officer at Austin Health in Melbourne, Australia. Steven is a passionate advocate for therapeutic horticulture and gardens within healthcare settings and the benefits that they provide for patients, their families, and staff. Steven has successfully developed the horticultural therapy program and sensory gardens at Austin Health’s Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre and expanded beyond this through his project officer role to also implement and oversee the development of numerous gardens throughout Austin Health’s three campuses. Steven is currently the President of the newly formed Therapeutic Horticulture Australia national association. 

10:15 am - 11:15 am

Come Meet the Family: A Look at Interesting and Useful Plants for Horticultural Therapy Programs
Matthew J. Wichrowski, MSW, HTR
Houseplants are an integral part of many horticultural therapy programs, especially in winter. Come and explore a variety of tropicals useful for horticultural therapy work, or just for personal interest. Culture, propagation and other interesting features provided.

  • Matthew J. Wichrowski MSW, HTR
    Matthew J. Wichrowski has been practicing horticultural therapy at Rusk Rehabilitation NYU-Langone Medical Center for 25 years and is currently Clinical Assistant Professor. He teaches in the Horticultural Therapy Certificate Program at New York Botanical Garden. Matt is also Editor-in-Chief of the AHTA’s Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture.

Social Work and Horticultural Therapy: Exploring an Example of Partnership
Dr. Sarah Ann Himmelheber MSW, LCSW, Ph.D.; John H. Murphy, MS, HTR
The potential for social work’s required field placement to serve as a method of partnership with horticulture therapy is explored, including a detailed account of one such successful example.

  • Sarah Ann Himmelheber, MSW, LCSW, Ph.D.
    Sarah A. Himmelheber, MSW, LCSW, Ph.D., is a social work professor and field director at Warren Wilson College, NC. Dr. Himmelheber’s research interests include community-level food security interventions, innovation in field education, service-learning pedagogy, expressive and non-traditional therapy modalities, and mindfulness applications in social work practice and education. Her practice background includes community-based mental health, homeless services, and food justice activism. Dr. Himmelheber earned her Ph.D. and MSW from the University of Georgia and her BS from New College of Florida.

  • John H. Murphy, MS, HTR
    John Murphy has served as the Director of Bullington Gardens, NC, since 1999. He is responsible for the development of multiple horticultural therapy programs for both adults and children, among which is a significant partnership with the NC Henderson County school system. He is passionate about introducing young people to the world of plants. He has an MS in horticulture, is a registered horticultural therapist, and also a licensed teacher.

Cultural Connectivity Through Horticultural Therapy Activities
Binxia Xue, Tongyu Li, Libba Shortridge, HTR
Through the lens of Tongyu Li and Binxia Xue, lecturer and professor respectively at China’s Harbin Institute of Technology, explore how Cultural Context comes to fruition through horticultural therapy activities such as labyrinth-building and nature collages. Dig deeper into its application for the population of adults with mental illness with Libba Shortridge, HTR at Skyland Trail, located in Atlanta, GA. Then, participate in the hands-on activity of a floating mandala and in the discussion of the implications for programmatic development.

  • Binxia Xue
    Binxia Xue has been dedicated to architectural design and urban planning for almost 30 years. He also participated or led in a considerable amount of architectural project design and engineering design including residential house, office building, hotel, theater, hospital, school, and museum and exhibition centers. He works as Associate Professor and Graduate Student Supervisor at School of Architecture, Harbin Institute of Technology, China. He has participated and completed the branch topics of consultation projects of Chinese Engineering Academy, National Natural Science Grant, and presided National Key Laboratories and Provincial Natural Science Foundation Projects. His research topics cover Healing Landscape and Horticultural Therapy, Theory and Practice of Eco-city Planning and Design.

  • Tongyu Li
    Tongyu Li works as a lecturer and graduate student supervisor at School of Architecture, Harbin Institute of Technology, China. Her research topics covering healing landscape, horticultural therapy, theory and application of landscape design as well as conservation and inheritance of the rural cultural landscape. She has presided and participated in scores of national, provincial and national cooperation projects, including the National Natural Science Foundation Youth Fund project.

  • Libba Shortridge, HTR
    Libba works as an HTR, hosting horticultural therapy programs at the Department of Horticulture, Skyland Trail, Atlanta, GA.

2:30 pm - 4:00 pm

Therapeutic Garden Design and Programming Workshop 
Brian Bainnson, PLA, ASLA; Melissa Bierman, MS, MHT, HTR
Participate in a collaborative process with other attendees to design and program a therapeutic garden. The workshop will provide an understating of the interdisciplinary design process utilizing the AHTA Therapeutic Garden Design Characteristics.

  • Brian E Bainnson, PLA, ASLA
    Mr. Bainnson headed up the design team for the Portland Memory Garden, a garden for people with Alzheimer's Disease, their families, and caregivers. The Garden is located in Ed Benedict Park, Southeast Portland. Mr. Bainnson has recently developed several therapeutic landscapes for Legacy Health System including gardens for the Oregon Burn Center, Legacy Meridian Park Hospital, Legacy Mt Hood Medical Center, Legacy RIO, and the Legacy Behavioral Health Garden. All gardens are used for active patient therapy as well as restorative places for patients, families, and caregivers. In all of Mr. Bainnson's work, understanding of the context, attention to detail, and an ability to understand and give life to the client's expectations unite the projects. Design and planning are blended with an understanding of the technical complexities of building projects, working with contractors and controlling fiscal realities.

  • Melissa Bierman, MS, MHT, HTR, Part-Time Faculty Gerontology Department, Portland Community College
    Melissa Bierman is a registered horticultural therapist in Behavioural Health at Legacy Health in Portland, OR. She also provides horticultural therapy programming in a wide variety of clinical settings.

Horticultural Community Restitution Programmes for Mentally Ill Offenders
Richard Eltringham
Explore horticultural restitution programs to improve health, wellbeing and care outcomes. Discover how Arnold Lodge Regional Secure Unit, England, has formed partnerships. Reflect on how this could benefit a patient’s recovery.

  • Richard Eltringham
    Richard leads therapeutic horticultural activities for mentally ill offenders at Arnold Lodge Regional Secure Unit, England. He has successfully established partnerships to help preserve, restore and manage our natural beauty.

Learning to Read Research Critically
Barb Kreski, MHS, OTR, HTR
Use a checklist to discern the value of a research study to practice. We will go through several examples together to consider study design, bias, confounders and more.

  • Barb Kreski, MHS, OTR, HTR
    At the end of 2018, Barb Kreski retired from her position as director of horticultural therapy services at the Chicago Botanic Garden after serving there nearly 9 years. She is currently working independently as an educator, consultant, and subject matter expert. Her experience is in the field of horticultural therapy, accessibility of gardens and a broad range of disabling conditions. Barb wrote the chapter titled "Research Applied to Practice" in the new Profession and Practice of Horticultural Therapy text.

Saturday, October 5

8:45 am - 9:45 am

Plenary Session
Cultivated: Plants, Therapy, and Growing Lives Worthy of the Name
Levi Gardener
Beyond its role as a therapeutic intervention, the natural world gives us language and hope amidst a torrent of interconnected challenges. Through story and science, I will share more about how cultivation is both a metaphorical and literal path forward for understanding ourselves, our work, and the greater world around us.

  • Levi Gardener
    A West Michigan native, Levi has an M.S. in Community Sustainability and Ecological Food and Farming systems from Michigan State University and is a certified Permaculture Designer and Biointensive Grower. He has served as the Chair of the City of Grand Rapids Committee on Urban Agriculture and an adjunct professor of Environmental Studies and Sustainability at Grand Valley State University. Beginning in May 2019, Levi’s role at Urban Roots shifted to Co-Executive Director to support the staff and board in moving the organization into its next phase. Beyond his professional work, Levi is a musician, a yoga practitioner, and a lover of being outdoors. He lives with his family in Grand Rapids, MI.

10:00 am - 11:00 am

Therapeutic Horticulture for Patients with Chronic Hemodialysis
Elizabeth R.M. Diehl, HTM, RLA
This two-year study explored the effect of therapeutic horticulture on individuals with end-stage kidney disease. Data analysis indicated significant improvements in particular areas despite noteworthy challenges in working with this population

  • Elizabeth R.M. Diehl, HTM, RLA
    Leah Diehl is developing the Undergraduate Certificate Program in Horticultural Therapy for the Environmental Horticulture Program, University of Florida. She directs the Therapeutic Horticulture Program at Wilmot Gardens at UF, where she creates programming for diverse populations and participates in research studies examining the impact of plants and nature on the quality of life and wellness. Leah is a registered horticultural therapist and a licensed landscape architect with an emphasis on healing gardens and therapeutic design and programming. She began her work in horticultural therapy in Chicago in 1993, where she started a therapeutic and pre-vocational program for individuals with physical and developmental disabilities. She served as Editor-in-Chief of the AHTA Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture for 15 years. She also works with the National Parks Board of Singapore in their efforts to bring therapeutic horticulture and therapeutic gardens to their citizens.

The Benefits of Horticultural Therapy Programs for the Community and Residential Elderly in Hong Kong
Emily Tin Yuk Shum, RHT; June Kit Ming Lau, RHT
Horticultural therapy programs conducted for community and residential elderly show how the continuous effect of horticultural therapy through one to multiple years can enhance the quality of life and well-being of the elderly.

  • Emily Tin Yuk Shum, Registered Horticultural Therapist
    Emily Shum is a Registered Horticultural Therapist (Supervisor) with the Hong Kong Association of Therapeutic Horticulture (HKATH). She holds B.Sc. Horticulture from University of Guelph, has professional experience in the landscape industry in Hong Kong. In 2017 she graduated from the Graduate Certificate in Horticultural Therapy Program with Kansas State University, under Dr. Candice Shoemaker. Her experience with HT client groups includes elders in care homes and in the community, clients with dementia and depression, physically and mentally challenged young adults and adults, and school children in Hong Kong. She is a member of HKATH and AHTA.

  • June Kit Ming Lau, Registered Horticultural Therapist
    June Kit Ming Lau is a Co-Chair of Research Committee of Hong Kong Association of Therapeutic Horticulture (HKATH) and Registered Horticultural Therapist (Supervisor) (HKATH). She obtained a degree of Master of Science from the University of Hong Kong. She has been involving in horticultural therapy internship supervision and HKATH research projects since 2012. She has 7 years’ experience in leading horticultural therapy groups for community and residential elderly, primary students with specific learning disabilities, people with stress, palliative care, intellectual disability, etc. She teaches HT Introduction Course, and HT and Emotional Management Course in Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions.

Boots 2 Roots PDX: Veteran Therapeutic Horticulture and Urban Agricultural Training
Scott Hoffman, MS
Therapeutic hands-on community engagement and integration opportunities to foster overall health and wellness; while also preparing Veterans with knowledge and skills for meaningful vocational opportunities in the agricultural/horticultural industries.

  • Scott Hoffman, MS
    Scott holds a B.S. in Horticulture and Environmental Landscaping from the University of MN and an M.S. in Agriculture from Washington State University. His graduate studies involved Healing Gardens in Health Care, with the creation of the Veterans Healing Garden at the VA Portland Medical Center. He is the Horticulturalist under the VA Portland Whole Health Division; with primary duties as the Boots 2 Roots PDX Program Coordinator, which involves skills training for Veterans through means of therapeutic horticulture and urban agriculture. He also manages the Veterans Healing Garden at the VA Portland. Scott is currently working toward professional registration with AHTA and has completed Portland Community College coursework in therapeutic horticulture. Furthermore, he is a U.S. Air Force Veteran.

11:15 am - 12:15 pm

Cultivating the Soul: Gardening on a Psychiatric Inpatient Unit
Ariel Schneider, LCSW; Nancy Wicks, OTL, OTR; Susan Clinton, OTR/L
Gardening with psychiatric inpatients resulted in personal reflections on life outside the hospital and plant symbolism. The experience provided exposure to sensory stimulation, distraction from unpleasant thoughts, and promote recovery.

  • Ariel Schneider, LCSW
    Ariel Schneider is a clinical social worker in Santa Barbara, CA. She facilitates therapeutic gardening activities with adults on an inpatient psychiatric unit and at an intensive outpatient program (IOP). She studied social work at Smith College in Northampton, MA, where she had the opportunity to see horticultural therapy in action through a mentor and completed her masters thesis on the topic entitled, Finding Personal Meaning: Vocational Horticulture Therapy for Individuals with Severe and Persistent Mental Illness. Since graduate school, she has had the opportunity to facilitate groups at the UCLA Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital as well as Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital where she currently works. Ariel is currently attending the Horticultural Therapy through the Horticultural Therapy Institute.

  • Nancy Wicks, OTL/R
    Nancy Wicks is an occupational therapist with over 20 years of experience. She currently works at the UCLA Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital on the adult inpatient unit. Nancy is one of the founders of the unit garden and currently co-leads the weekly gardening group. She works closely with the multidisciplinary team and is leading the expansion of the garden. She is certified in healthcare garden design from the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Nancy grew up in the English countryside and comes from a family of gardeners. She trained at the University of London and currently lives between Los Angeles and Chicago.

  • Susan Clinton, OTR/L
    Susan Clinton is an occupational therapist in Los Angeles, CA. She studied occupational therapy at New York University and has worked in various fields since becoming an OT. She currently works at UCLA Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital with adults on the inpatient unit. She also works at Elliott Institute, a non-public school with children who have various special needs. At UCLA, Susan co-leads a weekly gardening group to facilitate recovery and has contributed to qualitative research regarding the benefits of having this group on an inpatient psychiatric unit. She is also assisting with the garden expansion project on the unit with other another occupational therapist, nursing staff, and other mental health professionals.

Constant Refinement: A Collaborative Approach to Mental Health Interventions
Jonathan Irish, MA, LPC, HTR
A highly interactive and collaborative presentation that encourages audience participation to critique, adapt and modify horticultural therapy interventions for mental health programming. 

  • Jonathan Irish, MA, LPC, HTR
    Jonathan Irish, MA, LPC, HTR is the coordinator of horticultural therapy services at Rogers Behavioral Health in Oconomowoc, WI. He currently serves as the secretary for the AHTA board of directors. He works with adult and adolescent clients with disordered eating concerns, among other mental and behavioral complications. He has experience developing two separate horticultural therapy programs from the ground up. He enjoys lively and honest exploration of how to utilize horticultural therapy to reach those in need. He appears as a co-author of Chapter Eight in the newly published HT textbook, The Profession and Practice of Horticultural Therapy. 

Charles Lewis Award Winner
Effects of Horticulture on Frail and Prefrail Nursing Home Residents:  A Randomized Controlled Trial
Claudia K.Y. Lai, Ph.D.; Rick Y.C. Kwan, Ph.D.; Shirley K.L. Lo, MN; Connie Y.Y. Fung, MSc; Jordan K.H. Lau, BSW; Mimi M.Y. Tse, Ph.D.
The objective of this randomized controlled trial study was to examine the effects of horticultural therapy interventions on the psychosocial well-being of frail and pre-frail nursing home residents.  This session will present findings that suggest that horticultural therapy is an effective modality in promoting subjective happiness in nursing home residents and suggests that horticultural therapy should be used to promote the psychosocial wellbeing of those who are frail and experiencing multiple health challenges.

  • Dr. Claudia K.Y. Lai, Ph.D., RN, FHKCERN, FHKCGN, FAAN
    Dr. Claudia Lai, Honorary Professor at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), has two main research programs:  the care of people with dementia and their families and the care of frail older people. In 2010, she established the Health and Cognitive Assessment Service at PolyU to advance practice scholarship. In 2012, she and her team founded the Centre for Gerontological Nursing at PolyU. The Centre is a member of the Global Ageing Research Network of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics and also the National Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence. She has collaborated with the Hong Kong Association of Therapeutic Horticulture for more than 10 years.  She has received numerous research awards for her work in the field of gerontology. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (2015) and has been inducted into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame of the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International (2018).

  • Connie Fung Yuen Yee, HTR, RSW 
    President, Hong Kong Association of Therapeutic Horticulture
    Master of Health Science (Gerontology), BA (Social Work)
    Ms. Connie Fung is the first Horticultural Therapist registered with the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) to be practicing in Hong Kong and Mainland China. She is also the founder and president of the Hong Kong Association of Therapeutic Horticulture (HKATH), which was established in 2008 to promote and develop horticultural therapy.  Connie is the recipient of the AHTA 2015 Rhea McCandliss Professional Service Award. She is the author of Horticultural Therapy - Connection between People and Plant, published in 2014. In 2019, she also wrote a book on horticultural therapy and rehabilitation with Professor Liu Gang, published in China.

2:30 pm - 4:00 pm

Therapeutic Garden Design and Programming Workshop 
Brian Bainnson, PLA, ASLA; Melissa Bierman, MS, MHT, HTR
Participate in a collaborative process with other attendees to design and program a therapeutic garden. The workshop will provide an understating of the interdisciplinary design process utilizing the AHTA Therapeutic Garden Design Characteristics.

  • Brian E Bainnson, PLA, ASLA
    Mr. Bainnson headed up the design team for the Portland Memory Garden, a garden for people with Alzheimer's Disease, their families, and caregivers. The Garden is located in Ed Benedict Park, Southeast Portland. Mr. Bainnson has recently developed several therapeutic landscapes for Legacy Health System including gardens for the Oregon Burn Center, Legacy Meridian Park Hospital, Legacy Mt Hood Medical Center, Legacy RIO, and the Legacy Behavioral Health Garden. All gardens are used for active patient therapy as well as restorative places for patients, families, and caregivers. In all of Mr. Bainnson's work, understanding of the context, attention to detail, and an ability to understand and give life to the client's expectations unite the projects. Design and planning are blended with an understanding of the technical complexities of building projects, working with contractors and controlling fiscal realities.

  • Melissa Bierman, MS, MHT, HTR, Part-Time Faculty Gerontology Department, Portland Community College
    Melissa Bierman is a registered horticultural therapist in Behavioural Health at Legacy Health in Portland, OR. She also provides horticultural therapy programming in a wide variety of clinical settings.

Journey to Well-being: A Nature-based Practice using Japanese Gardens
Rachel Deffenbaugh; Jeanne Carbone
This intentional walking program capitalizes on the restorative powers of nature. The concepts can be implemented in any natural setting. Come actively engage in a modified version of the program.

  • Rachel Deffenbaugh, Therapeutic Horticulture Supervisor, Missouri Botanical Garden
    Rachel has worked within the realms of horticulture and social services for over 12 years and has practiced therapeutic horticulture for over 9 years. She managed a therapeutic job training program based on an urban farm, serving people who were homeless, struggling with addiction, and/or struggling with mental illness. In her current role as the Supervisor of Therapeutic Horticulture at the Missouri Botanical Garden, she works with seniors, people in treatment for substance use, and survivors of sex trafficking.

  • Jeanne Carbone, Therapeutic Horticulture Instructor, Missouri Botanical Garden
    Jeanne came to this role after 25 years as a special education teacher. She currently provides therapeutic horticulture programming in various healthcare settings throughout the community. The program activities vary but are focused on connecting people with nature in an effort to improve their well-being.

Creating with Nature by the Michigan Horticultural Therapy Association

Cathy Flinton, HTR and Mary Machon
In this session, participants will create a unique floral arrangement using a variety of plant trimmings from succulents, herbs, foliage plants, and cut flowers. Key objectives and goals for a variety of client types will be discussed throughout the project, giving the opportunity to understand how this horticultural therapy activity has many benefits to those you work with.  Participants can take home their completed project to root and grow and utilize these plants as stock plants for future projects or donate to local nursing home coordinated by MHTA.

  • Cathy Flinton, HTR
    Cathy is an HTR at Hope Network in Lansing, MI, serving traumatic brain injury patients.

  • Mary Machon
    Mary has a Masters Certificate from Kansas State and is the owner of Bensell Greenhouse in Toledo, OH.  Mary practices therapeutic horticulture at her greenhouse with Bittersweet Farms, the Victory Center, cancer patients and their families, and the Arc of Lucas County for developmentally challenged young adults.  

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