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(Re)thinking the dynamics between healthcare and place: therapeutic geographies in treatment and care practices

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Although the concept of therapeutic landscapes has assisted health geographers to explore the intimate connections between well-being and place, arguably, after a decade of applications, the common interpretations and assumptions of commentators should be reviewed. Based on theoretical insights from psychoanalytic geographies and geographies of nursing, this paper makes two observations. First, that landscape has been almost exclusively interpreted in a physical sense with co-presence being a necessary condition. In turn, this assumption has led to the neglect of non-physical (imagined) places. Second, that therapeutic effects have been interpreted as experiences attained outside of clinical practices. Hence, healthcare workers and their direct treatments and care have also been neglected. To explore these omissions together, an interview survey of complementary therapists investigates the many ways in which imagined places are constructed and manipulated in therapy sessions. Arguably, beyond this example, extending the therapeutic landscape concept to both physical and non-physical features of treatments could provide fresh insights into the dynamics between healthcare and place. In disciplinary terms, the benefits are twofold. Whilst it could help develop a critical tradition in health geography, perhaps ironically, it could also provide a stronger disciplinary connection between qualitative health geography, various forms of medicine and their research traditions.

Keywords: complementary medicine; health geography; medical geography; nursing; therapeutic landscapes

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 3H4, Email:

Publication date: September 1, 2004

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