Eco-anxiety counselling supports positive transformation
Eco-anxiety counselling is described in an article where they outline the development of this concept in 2007. This blog has extracts from that article. It’s only natural to feel anxious in the face of a melting planet and the sixth mass extinction.
In some ways, climate anxiety is a rational response, said Leslie Davenport, a therapist based in Tacoma, Washington, and the author of the book Emotional Resiliency in the Era of Climate Change: a Clinician’s Guide. “Eco-anxiety is a natural response to a threat. And this is a very real threat,” Davenport said.
Caroline Hickman, a psychotherapist and climate psychologist at the University of Bath, has spent years leading training sessions and presenting lectures on climate change. But lately, the field’s inadequacy in the face of a mounting problem has struck her as particularly stark.
Therapists differ in how they help clients cope using Eco-anxiety counselling. Mindfulness-based approaches can help people cope with the intense emotions associated with climate anxiety and grief. For example, Davenport might walk clients through a guided meditation, in which they imagine themselves in a peaceful setting or have them tune into the specific sensations their body experiences as they think about climate change. Cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on addressing unhealthy ways of thinking, can help clients paralyzed by distressing thoughts about climate change. Climate-informed therapists also encourage activism and time in nature as a way to cope.
“The reason we’re in this mess with the climate emergency is because we look at it as separate to ourselves,” Hickman said. She helps clients explore anxiety and grief about climate change by exploring their relationship to their local environment.
In Bath, England, climate psychotherapist Tree Staunton has been advocating for more systemic changes. Recently, her advocacy led to the addition of new training standards in the UK’s Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy College, one of 10 subsections of the UK Council for Psychotherapy. New therapists will be required to learn about the environmental and climate crises and the unconscious defenses we’re all employing when we think about this crisis. They’ll have to learn when to support those defenses in clients – and how to help clients overcome them.
“Climate change is the context in which we’re doing therapy,” Staunton said. “And it can’t be left out of therapy.”