The Therapeutic Potential of New Zealand's Coast: The role of personal experiences and education in shifting individual perceptions of therapeutic landscapes
Over the past decade the therapeutic landscape framework has seen a number of critiques regarding its catch all approach to healing environments and the lack of discussion surrounding landscapes of harm. Geographers have highlighted that the framework generally assumes that when examining therapeutic landscapes research has typically focussed on the health-promotion elements, neglecting to discuss how the same environment acts in a health-limiting manner. Gaining a more in-depth understanding of how individuals interact with ‘therapeutic’ spaces, and the interactions they seek within them, will provide a better knowledge of how individuals perceive landscapes and individually place them on a continuum ranging from therapeutic to disruptive. This research seeks to respond to these critiques of the framework and the gaps in the relevant literature through exploring the ways in which an individual’s personal experiences, education, and interactions with the physical environment at the coast shape the way in which they perceive, and therefore experience and interact with the coastal landscape. The research was carried out under a poststructuralist framework, utilising three research methods. These were focus group interviews, a solicited diary activity, and a final round of semi-structured interviews. Several key areas of interest emerged through this research. Primarily, the significant impact that personal experiences and place attachment play in the initial creation of therapeutic landscapes. It was found that for a landscape to be perceived as therapeutic by any individual a history of positive experiences and interactions were required to develop an initial sense of attachment. Second, education acted to supplement, or in limited cases work in place of, personal experiences in order to shape the coast as a therapeutic space. Finally, elements of the coast that were typically regarded as intrinsically health-enhancing, including the ocean and shoreline, were instead divisive elements in perceptions of the coast as a result of unique personal experiences. Through exploring the impact of each of personal experiences, education, and the physical environment I will develop and argue the significance of two new concepts. The first, coastal yellow spaces, builds upon recent critiques focussing on geographers limited palettic discussions of space and seeks to recognise and acknowledge the unique health-enhancing potential of a broader range of landscapes. The second, the therapeutic continuum spanning the connection between therapeutic and disruptive landscapes, is developed in response to the assumption that therapeutic spaces are similarly therapeutic for all. Within this continuum I recognise landscapes as holding a degree of therapeutic potential, with an individual’s unique experiences and education shifting their perception of the landscape and determining its placement along the continuum. Both developments are suggested as tools with which geographers may better explore and understand the therapeutic and health-enhancing value of a range of landscapes.
Advisor: Ergler, Christina; Connelly, Sean
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: New Zealand; Therapeutic; Landscape; Coast; green; blue; yellow; space
Research Type: Thesis