Healing landscapes: patients, relationships, and creating optimal healing places

J Altern Complement Med. 2005:11 Suppl 1:S41-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2005.11.s-41.


Healing can be both an intensely personal and a social and community event that often surprises us when it emerges from the landscape of everyday life. This observation raises at least three questions that serve as the focus for this paper's reflections about creating optimal healing places. Who are patients? What relationships and features of those relationships help patients toward healing? How do we understand and facilitate the emergence of healing over time and place? Using existing literature and our own past and current studies of patients, clinical encounters, and primary care practices, we explore each of these questions. We identify four different aspects or faces of patients: patients as human animals, patients as persons, patients as techno-consumers, and patients as patients. We highlight 10 lessons or observations about patients and their healing experiences. Key features of relational process are described, and nine interdependent relationship characteristics that appear to promote healing are discussed. The idea of healing landscapes as an emergent life space is introduced as a way of conceptualizing and further investigating these observations. A reflective action process for facilitating the emergence of healing landscapes and creating an ecology of hope is presented, and recommendations for future research are briefly shared.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environment Design*
  • Health Facility Environment / organization & administration*
  • Holistic Health*
  • Humans
  • Patients' Rooms
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Social Change