Nidotherapy: Mental Health Therapy and the Environment
The science behind environment being the pathway to better therapy.
Nidotherapy is defined as:
‘the collaborative systematic assessment and modification of the environment to minimise the impact of any form of mental disorder disorder on the individual or on society’
(Tyrer, Sensky and Mitchard, 2003; Psychhotherapy and Psychosomatics, 72, 350‐356)
Unlike many other mental health treatments, it focuses on ‘treating’ the environment rather than the person.
For years, we have known that our surroundings can impact our minds and our wellbeing, and this is reflected all around us. This is part of the science of Nidotherapy.
We search for places to live where we can “appreciate quiet enjoyment” (a legal term), and make us feel that we can truly be ourselves; we choose holidays which offer peace, sun-swept beaches or lone mountain peaks to re-connect and ground ourselves.
Offices are now carefully designed by specialist architects to create innovative cultures, reflect businesses’ core values and beliefs or simply keep people focused and formulaic in their own impersonal cubicle.
Google famously has offices with resting pods and organic suppers to ensure its employees’ minds are always in the Google zone and there is little need to go home.
Equally, the opposite can also apply. Fast food restaurants turn up their lights a little too brightly, and slant their chairs, so 10 minutes of wiggling is the most you can bear (subconsciously too).
Click here for more information about mental health in the workplace.
Mental Health Wellbeing and the Environment
A study by Warwick University showed that there was a statistically significant difference between the rates of common mental health disorders in rural and urban residents. Those people living in less built-up areas showed lower incidences of newly diagnosed conditions and lower occurrence of remission. There are clearly lots of other factors in play but is this, in part, a result of the access to the countryside?
There is some evidence that even the quality of the view from a window can have a therapeutic impact. (R.S. Ulrich, “View through a window may influence recovery from surgery”, Science, 224 (1984) pp. 420-421.) This article demonstrated that patients with a view of nature had shorter stays in hospital and more favourable comments about their condition in nurse’s notes. This was when compared with equivalent patients who only had a window facing a brick wall.
At Cardinal Clinic, we hear time and time again from our patients, whether outpatient, day-patient or short stay residential, (who may have seen NHS or other private psychiatrists or psychologists in the past) that our homely, large country clinic set in the incredible natural beauty of our 10 acre gardens is very much part of their therapy.
“When I arrive at the clinic to see my therapist, I feel that I am being hugged by the surroundings and embraced by the clinic…I feel open and trusting, and willing to get better” (Patient X)
This enables patients’ mindsets to shift gear from their often busy lives to fully embrace the different therapies they may experience, always under the care of a leading, expert psychiatrist consultant.
Professor Peter Tyrer, a well-regarded professor of psychiatry understood this environmental pathway to successful mental health care and has been working with Nidotherapy for over 10 years. It is a relatively new form of psychotherapy, using the patients’ environment as their pathway to better engagement with therapy.
Dr Leslie Morrish, a prominent, leading psychiatrist and the Cardinal Clinic founder, knew this 45 years ago when he designed the clinic, diametrically opposed to what was the “norm” in mental health care. Dr Morrish was clear that environment can hold the key, and be the pathway to better mental health.
Tyrer, P. Nidotherapy: harmonising the environment with the patient. London; RCPsych Press, 2009.