About Us

For over 40 years, the Michigan Horticultural Therapy Association has had a presence in Michigan and the Greater Lakes Region, promoting horticulture as a therapy modality.  A 501c3, it is run by a volunteer board that’s passionate about advancing horticultural therapy. Our board is committed to cultivating wellness and growing together to support and advance horticultural therapy throughout the Great Lakes Region.

Our mission is to promote and encourage state and regional interest in the development of horticultural and related activities as a therapeutic and rehabilitative medium by:

  • Supporting acceptance of horticultural therapy
  • Promoting horticultural therapy education throughout Michigan and the Great Lakes Region
  • Supporting programs that utilize horticultural therapy in Michigan and throughout the Great Lakes Region
  • Strengthening the organizational structure of the Michigan Horticultural Therapy Association

Our members are involved in this organization’s mission in a variety of ways. They practice HT at their jobs and in their communities as paid employees or volunteers.

What is Horticultural Therapy?

Horticultural Therapy is the participation in horticultural activities facilitated by a registered horticultural therapist to achieve specific goals within an established treatment, rehabilitation, or vocational plan. Horticultural Therapy is an active process which occurs in the context of an established treatment plan where the process itself is considered the therapeutic activity rather than the end product.

What Defines a Horticultural Therapy Program?

Horticultural Therapy programs are found in a wide variety of healthcare, rehabilitative, and residential settings. Horticultural Therapy programs document outcomes for the participant(s) on an individual or group basis.

What are the Components of a Horticultural Therapy Program?


  • The engagement of a participant in horticultural-related activities.
  • The participant has an identified disability, illness, or life circumstance requiring services.
  • The activity is facilitated by a registered horticultural therapist.
  • The participation is in the context of an established treatment, rehabilitation, or vocational plan.

What are Some Examples of Horticultural Therapy Activities?


  • Provide horticultural therapy activities in a group setting to increase social skills and decrease isolation.
  • Plant seeds of various sizes to address goal of improving fine motor skills.
  • Raise a watering can to water plants to increase active movement and range of motion
  • Make potpourri to improve sensory stimulation, cognitive stimulation and fine motor skills
  • Create a dish garden with a variety of plants and decorations to express creativity, increase self-esteem,   eye/hand coordination and utilize fine motor skills

Who is Alice Burlingame?


In 1951, Detroit native and psychiatric social worker Alice Burlingame started a horticultural program at the Pontiac Michigan State Hospital. Ms. Burlingame discovered horticultural therapy had strong positive effects on people with disabilities and older adults. She concluded horticultural therapy needed to become “a separate and distinct profession.”

A year later, Burlingame and Dr. Donald Watson held a week-long workshop at Michigan State University (MSU). The workshop was successful and soon MSU became the first university to offer classes in horticultural therapy. In 1955, the first Master of Science in Horticultural Therapy was awarded to occupational therapist Genevieve Jones.

Alice Burlingame and Dr. Watson later published the first textbook in horticultural therapy called Therapy Through Horticulture.

Meet Our Board Members

Cathy Flinton

Cathy Flinton

Conference Coordinator

Cathy is an HTR at Hope Network in Lansing, MI serving traumatic brain injury patients. She currently is the MHTA Conference Coordinator and is also a past president. Cathy received her Bachelor in Science in Horticulture from MSU and received her HT certification from HTI. She is a registered horticultural therapist.

Cathy has been a member of MHTA for over 20 years and has been the conference coordinator for over five. A very active board member, Cathy works all year keeping the buzz in HT throughout the Great Lakes Region. Her passion for people and HT is pallitable. Her love of gardening shines in the greenhouse at the Hope Network facility where as the horticultural therapist there, her patients thrive and grow physically, mentally and socially from the HT activities she develops. Cathy is a frequent speaker at the annual conference.

Carol Shaw

Carol Shaw


Carol currently serves as the Treasurer for the MHTA. Retiring from her position as Enrichment Coordinator at Home Instead Senior Care in 2019, Carol has over 25 years of experience working with the aging population as they transition to home health care and/or retirement/assisted living. An avid gardener and creative writer, Carol has been with the MHTA board since 2014 and has been an MHTA member for over 10 years. Carol is responsible for keeping the organization up to date financially and helps the board make positive financial decisions to grow the organization.

Angie Girdham

Angie Girdham

Membership Coordinator & Social Media Manager

Angie, the organization’s membership coordinator as well as administrator of the Facebook and Instagram accounts continues to keep the MHTA connected and growing. Angie keeps the organization abreast of the current social media trends and is the answer to all questions asked about MHTA. Angie is the horticulturalist at a private liberal arts college in Southern Michigan and is a registered HT, receiving her certificate in HT from HTI. Specializing in working with youth and young adults at risk. She is also a frequent speaker at the annual conference and many other programs near her home. Angie speaks on all garden topics and horticultural therapy.

Fallon Thigpen

Fallon Thigpen

Board Member

Fallon has worked in the horticultural industry for 8+ years. She worked with a national plant brand to provide online availability of plants to customers nationwide through retailers like Home Depot, Amazon, QVC, and Walmart. Currently, Fallon works as a fractional marketing executive. She is an avid gardener and is passionate about health and wellness. Fallon joined the Michigan Horticultural Therapy Association in 2021. She holds a B.A. in English and Psychology. Most recently, Fallon obtained a certificate in Digital Marketing from the Wharton Business School Online. She assists the MHTA with its website, newsletter, and other marketing needs


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