Milieu therapy, inspired by the therapeutic community, has had a central position in interdisciplinary treatment programmes in psychiatric institutions. Following a significant reduction of hospital beds and shorter stays in recent years, a number of professionals have questioned the relevance of the traditional milieu therapy. Therefore, a renewal of this mode of treatment is called for. A review of the research shows that there is little systematized knowledge on milieu therapy as a concept and practice, and there is little systematic research on different models of milieu therapy. Historically, the psychodynamic model has had the greatest impact on theory and practice. In recent years, however, cognitive milieu therapy has gained increased attention. An important source for revitalizing the milieu therapy of today is the focus of patients’ experiences of the important factors in recovery processes. Recent research shows that patients’ personal learning processes depend on contextual conditions. In this article, a socio-cultural learning model for understanding patients’ learning processes through therapy and participation in an institutional milieu is presented. The authors suggest that this has potential to renew milieu therapy. This proposed model, however, needs to be empirically tested in practical settings.

Keywords: milieu therapy, mental health care, learning, recovery, healing environments