Can Therapeutic Landscaping in Hospitals Enhance Patient Recovery?

We live in an era where technology often supersedes the simple, natural elements of life, even when it comes to healthcare. But, there is a growing recognition of the potential that the natural environment, specifically therapeutic landscaping, holds in enhancing patient recovery rates in hospitals. It is a novel concept that unites architecture, psychology, nature, and medicine to create healing environments.

This article will delve into the concept of therapeutic landscaping, its implementation in hospitals, its potential benefits for patients, and any existing evidence to support its effectiveness.

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Understanding Therapeutic Landscaping

Therapeutic landscaping refers to the use of plants, water features, open spaces, and the overall presence of nature in the creation of healing environments. The underlying concept is that exposure to natural elements can have a positive impact on human well-being, both physically and psychologically.

Before we dive into the impact of this concept in a hospital setting, let’s understand how it works. The fundamental principle of therapeutic landscaping is based on the Biophilia hypothesis, which suggests a human’s innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. This means the presence of nature, whether it’s a tree, a flower, or even a simple water feature, can stimulate positive physiological responses.

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Implementing Therapeutic Landscaping in Hospitals

The implementation of therapeutic landscaping in hospitals goes beyond merely planting trees or setting up water features. It’s about creating spaces that offer patients a sense of tranquility, comfort, and engagement. These spaces should encourage movement and interaction with nature and create a visually pleasing environment that diverts the mind from pain or illness.

A successful therapeutic landscape might include indoor plants, outdoor gardens, water features, natural light, and even interactive elements like bird feeders or tactile plants. Designers might consider patient views from their rooms, accessibility of natural areas, and even the soundscapes produced by nature.

Potential Benefits of Therapeutic Landscaping

The potential benefits of therapeutic landscaping are multifaceted, contributing to both the physical and psychological well-being of patients.

Physically, interacting with nature can encourage mobility among patients. It can promote physical activity, vital for recovery from several conditions, and can also provide opportunities for rehabilitation exercises.

Psychologically, therapeutic landscapes can offer a sense of calm and relaxation, helping lower stress levels. They can serve as a source of distraction, reducing perceptions of pain and discomfort. They can even stimulate positive emotions, contributing to a more positive mindset, which is crucial in healing.

Moreover, therapeutic landscaping is not only beneficial for patients but also for healthcare providers. A healing, nature-infused environment can reduce stress among healthcare staff, potentially leading to improved job satisfaction and productivity.

Evidence Supporting Therapeutic Landscaping in Hospitals

Many studies have explored the potential impact of therapeutic landscaping in healthcare settings, and the results are promising.

One of the most famous studies was conducted by Roger Ulrich in 1984, where he found that patients recovering from gallbladder surgery who had views of nature from their room had shorter hospital stays, fewer complaints, and took fewer painkillers than those with a view of a brick wall.

More recent studies have confirmed these findings. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Aging Health found that access to outdoor gardens can improve sleep, reduce agitation, and enhance mobility in dementia patients. Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 2017 found that spending time in a garden can reduce stress and anxiety among cancer patients.

Final Thoughts

Though therapeutic landscaping has been gaining recognition, it is still an underused concept in hospital design. However, the evidence supporting its effectiveness is growing, and the benefits it offers are hard to ignore. More than just a design element, therapeutic landscaping is a symbol of the balance between modern medicine and natural healing. It’s a reminder that sometimes, the simplest elements of life, like a breath of fresh air or the rustle of leaves, can have the most profound effects on our well-being.

The Future of Therapeutic Landscaping in Healthcare

The future of therapeutic landscaping in healthcare looks promising. As researchers continue to study its impacts, and as healthcare practitioners observe its benefits firsthand, the integration of this approach into healthcare settings is likely to grow.

Consider the case of the Maggie’s Centres in the UK. These are cancer care facilities where therapeutic landscaping is a central part of the design. Each centre is purposefully built within a natural setting, and the interiors are filled with natural light, plants, and views of the outdoors. The centres report that patients, families, and staff all feel the positive effects of these environments on their wellbeing.

In the US, many hospitals are implementing therapeutic landscaping in their designs. The Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin, Texas, includes a healing garden, walking paths, and courtyards. The hospital also uses natural materials in its interiors and maximizes natural light.

In Japan, where the philosophy of nature-connectedness is deeply rooted in the culture, the idea of therapeutic landscaping is embraced in healthcare settings. One example is the Ryoanji hospital in Kyoto, which has a therapeutic garden designed to stimulate the senses and promote healing.

Seeing these examples, it’s clear that the incorporation of therapeutic landscaping into healthcare design is a growing trend. As healthcare providers strive to create patient-centred environments, it is likely that the role of nature in promoting healing will continue to be recognized and valued.

Therapeutic Landscaping: A Holistic Approach to Healing

Therapeutic landscaping offers a more holistic approach to healing. Rather than focusing solely on treating a patient’s medical condition, it also takes into account the patient’s psychological and emotional wellbeing. It recognizes the importance of creating a positive, nurturing environment for patients to heal in.

The benefits of therapeutic landscaping extend beyond the patients. It also has positive effects on the healthcare staff. Hospitals can be high-stress environments, and having access to natural, calming spaces can help reduce stress and burnout among healthcare providers.

Moreover, therapeutic landscaping can also benefit visitors. Having a tranquil place to take a moment, relax, and rejuvenate can help family members and friends who are supporting their loved ones through their health journey.


In conclusion, therapeutic landscaping has the potential to revolutionize the way we approach healthcare. It offers a natural, holistic approach to healing that can enhance patient recovery and overall well-being. The evidence supporting its effectiveness continues to grow, and the trend towards its implementation in hospitals is gaining momentum.

By blending the best of modern medicine with the natural healing power of nature, therapeutic landscaping offers a balanced, comprehensive approach to healthcare. It’s a concept that brings us back to our roots and reminds us of the profound effects that the simplest elements of life can have on our health and well-being.

As we look to the future of healthcare, it is clear that therapeutic landscaping will play a crucial role in shaping patient-centered, healing environments. It’s a concept that is not just about the physical space but about fostering a mindset of healing and wellbeing. It’s about recognizing and harnessing the power of nature to promote recovery and enhance patient care.

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