Niamk. K. Shortt (a); Sarah J. Rhynas (b) Aisha Holloway (b);

Elsevier, Health & Place; Volume 47, September 2017, Pages 147-155

a. Centre of Research on Environment, Society and Health, School of GeoSciences, The University of Edinburgh, Scotland EH8 9XP, United Kingdom
b. Nursing Studies, School of Health in Social Science, The University of Edinburgh, EH8 9AG, United Kingdom


It has been suggested that place, and interaction with the environment, may play a role in recovery from alcohol dependence. In this paper we report findings from a project that used an adapted photovoice methodology to better understand individuals’ experience and perceptions of the role of place in recovery from alcohol dependence. Individuals attending a recovery café in central Scotland documented their environment and, in focus group settings, the individuals discussed and analysed their photographs. Here we report aspects of the environment, both therapeutic and risky, experienced by individuals negotiating the journey of dependence recovery. Elements of the natural environment were largely referred to as supportive and therapeutic, as were other more quotidian spaces, such as the home and café. The largest place-based risk faced by participants was the persistent availability and marketing of alcohol. The results demonstrate that the journey of recovery from alcohol dependence is contextually shaped, with place both supporting and hindering this journey.


The role that place plays in recovery from alcohol dependence may be both risky and therapeutic. Places can be restorative in that they can moderate the negative effects of dependence, facilitate social reconnection and minimise exposure to risk. At the same time places can also be risky, can trigger relapse and be barriers to effective change. Those who negotiate the journey of recovery move through everyday spaces that may both challenge their recovery and support it. Despite this, within the 

Study setting

This project was carried out in a recovery café in an urban centre in central Scotland between October 2014 and January 2015. The café describes itself as one run by people in recovery, for people in recovery. It provides a space for those in recovery to come together, take part in alterative activities and, for some, ‘first step’ employment through volunteering. Activities include yoga, gym sessions, club nights as well as therapeutic groups such as Cocaine Anonymous. The café therefore..


Our analysis of both the focus group and photographs identified various themes, including those related to the role of the environment in recovery. This paper will focus on two themes; the role of both therapeutic and risky environments in alcohol dependence recovery. Subcategories of the former included the natural environment and the non-natural and sub-categories of the latter were retail environments (coping and avoidance) and time. In total the participants took 468 photographs (ranging.


This paper has explored the role of the environment in alcohol dependence recovery. The findings reflect previous arguments made in the geographies of health that suggest that place is both simultaneously therapeutic and risky, with this association changing through time (Cummins et al., 2007). The paper extends the geographies of alcohol research by providing a nuanced description of the everyday spaces of alcohol dependence recovery and adds to the growing body of knowledge regarding the


This paper addressed the role of the environment in recovery from alcohol dependence. It did so through a participatory approach analysing the lived experiences of persons in recovery. The paper responds to calls in the literature to further explore the role of place in the process of treatment from substance dependence (DeVerteuil and Wilton, 2009). We add to the evidence base of both risky and therapeutic environments and in particular provide evidence of the challenges faced by these

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