What is it about?

Therapeutic environments in psychology are often defined as a combination of geography and health, in other words, healing spaces for therapeutic use with people suffering from mental health conditions. However, much of the research on therapeutic environments lacks an ethical framework around the relationship between people and their environments. This article suggests that an ethical framework is important because it helps better understand the human relationship with nature and consider what makes that relationship healing for different people, and what they can also offer nature.

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Why is it important?

This article suggests that research on therapeutic environments ought to consider ethical ecologies. The ethical ecological theories suggested are based in social, cultural, and political ways that humans have relationships with the environment. With these ethical considerations, research on therapeutic environments can be more diverse, inclusive, and create relationships of respect with nature.


I want psychologists and anyone interested in therapeutic environments to consider the types of relationships humans have with nature as a theoretical grounding before implementing practical mechanisms for therapy or engagement with nature. An ethical ecological approach looks at the reciprocity in the human/nature relationship and with intersectionality we can see how different people have different kinds of relationships with nature. If the aim is to use nature to heal people, nature must also be protected to avoid depleting its resources, and people must be understood as dynamic and diverse, which means that healing may look different for different people.

Patric Plesa
Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: An ethical ecology for research on therapeutic environments., Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, December 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/teo0000218.
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