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In the contemporary world, climate change isn’t just a scientific or environmental concern – it’s deeply psychological. It’s not only altering our planet, but also the way we think, feel, and even the way therapy is practiced.
Andrew Bryant, a clinical social worker based in Seattle, once perceived Climate change as a distant challenge. Like many others, the consequences of a warming planet seemed remote. However, as the Pacific Northwest experienced worsening effects such as lingering wildfire smoke and harrowing heatwaves, the reality became stark. These events brought forth powerful emotions in many: anxiety, depression, guilt, and anger.
Initially, therapists like Bryant were not equipped to address these concerns. Traditional psychotherapy wasn’t designed with a global environmental crisis in mind. Yet as climate anxiety became more prevalent, the therapeutic community began adapting. Therapists started seeking resources and sharing insights on how to help patients grappling with environmental fears.
Out of this growing need emerged a new therapeutic specialty – climate psychology. This field acknowledges the broad mental health impacts of Climate change, ranging from acute traumas like surviving natural disasters to the chronic dread of a bleak future. These concerns extend beyond the individual, challenging old therapeutic models that focused solely on personal growth. Climate change emphasizes our interconnectedness, both with each other and the larger world, necessitating a new therapeutic approach.
Indeed, scientific studies reinforce this trend. The American Psychological Association has recognized “eco-anxiety” as a legitimate concern. Recent surveys indicate that a significant portion of the population worries about the climate, leading to symptoms of depression or anxiety. It’s evident that the changing climate isn’t just a matter for ecologists or policy-makers; it’s a human issue that touches every facet of our lives.
Today, those seeking therapy for their climate concerns have more options. Resources like the Climate Psychology Alliance North America are curating lists of climate-aware therapists. As the world grapples with the multifaceted implications of a changing environment, therapy is evolving, reflecting a renewed understanding of our deep-seated need to be in harmony with our planet.
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