What are Therapeutic Landscapes?

An investigation on how place interacts with health.

Therapeutic landscapes are “everyday landscapes that have the potential to contribute to the maintenance of health and well being,” according to Ariane Katherine Khachatourians’ paper titled: Therapeutic Landscapes, a critical analysis.

Khachatourians acknowledges that there are strong ties between a sense of place and a sense of self, and the individualized meaning of place strongly impacts how individuals perceive their conditions and quality of life.

This newer definition and understanding of therapeutic landscapes came about in the shift from medically focused geography to health focused geography where sociology now influences geography and geographical models.

Khachatourians wrote in her paper that therapeutic landscapes “challenge and assist traditional notions of medical geography and health care.” and quotes Wilbert M. Gesler on what qualifies a space as a therapeutic landscape.

According to Gesler, a therapeutic landscape is not just one type of physical environment (there are traditional and non traditional landscapes) and must be:

  • must incorporate a natural element
  • evoke a strong sense of place
  • have unique place specific qualities
  • have symbolism and spirituality play some sort of role

Gesler stresses that all elements must be present, not just any one single element as that is not the mark of a true therapeutic landscape.

These types of places are effective in both healing and health maintenance and there is also the importance of accessible wilderness and human-environment interaction to give a landscape a therapeutic experience.