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. This kind of 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 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.