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What Is a Therapeutic Environment?

A comfortable couch can be important in the office of a therapist or psychiatrist.
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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2014
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A therapeutic environment is a location such as a doctor's or clinical psychologist's office that is optimized for some particular type of therapy or treatment. The term "therapeutic environment" may also refer to any environment that has, intentionally or otherwise, a therapeutic effect on a particular individual. A psychologist's office may be considered therapeutic in itself because it is designed and decorated with the intent of making patients feel safe and comfortable. Alternatively, an isolated house in the country may also be therapeutic because it can provide an escape from the stresses of day-to-day life, though such an environment is usually not designed with a therapeutic application in mind.

The most defining feature of a therapeutic environment is that, in some way, it provides a therapeutic benefit to an individual or helps a therapist to provide someone with some form of help. Such environments typically are designed to make the patient feel comfortable and, in some cases, to distract the patient from anything particularly unpleasant. They are also used to provide a comfortable, safe, and convenient environment for the therapist so that he can do his job to the best of his abilities without being hindered by his work environment. Maximizing comfort and minimizing stress in a therapeutic environment can greatly assist both the therapist and the patient, thereby expediting the treatment process and minimizing potential discomfort associated with it.

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Many different conditions aside from the physical layout of a given room or building can contribute to the therapeutic nature of a given environment. A therapeutic environment may be viewed as the sum of all the different sensory factors that contribute to or detract from one's comfort and openness to treatment in a given area. Sounds, feelings, images, and smells can all affect the effectiveness of a therapeutic environment. A clinical psychologist's office with a comfortable couch, gentle lights, and quiet music playing in the background might, for instance, make a poor therapeutic environment in the presence of an offensive odor.

In some cases, a structure or area must be specifically constructed or designed as a therapeutic environment. A home for the mentally ill or physically disabled, for instance, should be designed to maximize the comfort and safety of all who live there. This could involve providing sufficient privacy for patients, displaying soothing and pleasing artwork, and ensuring that plenty of sunlight makes it into the home. The setup of the environment should also minimize ambient noise and allow patients to get sufficient sleep.

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anon335035
Post 4

I think a place that is clean, safe and comfortable contributes to the client's ability to rest, sleep and sense of well being.

fify
Post 3
@fBoyle-- Do you think that the kind of environment we feel is therapeutic also depends on our habits and the place where we were raised? I think there is a definite connection between the two because of my mother's and my likes.

My mother grew up on the coast, she loves being by the water. There is no other place that makes her as happy and peaceful as the beach side.

I, on the other hand, grew up by the mountains. I love the mountains. I find everything about the mountains therapeutic -- the sight, the climate, the fresh air. My mom drags me to our beach house sometimes and I feel so bored there!

fBoyle
Post 2

I completely agree that there is no single definition of a therapeutic environment. What's therapeutic for one person might not be therapeutic for another. It depends on the individual's likes and dislikes.

donasmrs
Post 1

For me, a therapeutic environment is a spacious room with large windows, natural light, minimal furniture and live plants. I feel very peaceful in this type of environment. That's why I've selected and decorated my home in this way. I have a very stressful job and I need my home to be a therapeutic space for me so that I can re-energize for another day.

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