Therapeutic Environments: Definition, History & Principles Video

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  • 0:03 What Are Therapeutic…
  • 1:24 Examples
  • 3:20 Evolving Ideas
  • 4:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Therapeutic environments consist of more than just a hospital bed and random medical equipment. In this lesson, we'll learn about environments that are specifically designed to increase safety, reduce anxiety, and promote independence.

What Are Therapeutic Environments?

Therapeutic environments can refer to physical, social, and psychological safe spaces that are specifically designed to be healing. But most often, the term therapeutic environment refers to a physical space that is set up to allow individuals to work through and overcome medical issues.

John is an elderly man living with dementia, a disease that severely impairs a person's memory, ability to perform tasks of daily living (like bathing or feeding), and ability to solve complex or, in its advanced stage, even simple problems.

John's current environment has become more challenging recently due to his dementia. He currently lives alone in a two-story house, must climb a flight of stairs to use the bathroom, and prepares meals with a gas stove (when he remembers to cook). Over the past two months, John's daughter Anna has noticed that he no longer picks up the phone when she calls to check in, and upon visiting his house, she sees an accumulation of unpaid bills and lack of general upkeep. She realizes that his environment poses safety and quality of life concerns that put him at risk.

Anna consults with her siblings, and collectively they decide to look for a new place for their father to live. They're seeking an environment that's safe, stimulating, and comforting for John - in other words, John's children are looking for a therapeutic environment for him to live in.


For someone with dementia like John, a therapeutic environment would be any setting that is safe, calming, and supportive of him maintaining his independence for as long as possible. Such an environment would be all on one level to reduce his risk of falling on stairs, have support staff available to help tend to his bathing and cooking, and be built with facility safety measures to ensure John does not wander off grounds. Luckily, his daughter, Anna, has found a dementia care facility that meets these requirements. The environment will help to decrease safety hazards, distract from painful conditions, and promote independence, encouraging him to remain social as he withdraws as a part of the expected dementia disease process.

Of course, the qualities of the right therapeutic environment depend on each patient's needs. Some common examples of specially designed therapeutic environments include:

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