Finding a counsellor for eco anxiety and climate grief
More and more people are finding themselves struggling with a myriad of difficult emotions regarding the future of the planet. The latest IPCC report makes for bleak reading, global governments are woefully behind on making concrete and sustainable plans for change, scientists are talking about ‘tipping points’ and extreme weather events are increasing. Climate change is no longer a potential future problem – it is here and happening now.
For many people, the fact that life and society seem to be carrying on as normal amongst all of this can be anxiety provoking in itself. Fears around climate change are increasingly cited as a factor in mental health difficulties. Many young people around the world are reporting increased feelings of hopelessness and despair about the future.
An increasing number of people are grappling with the decision around whether to have children – wary of both the environmental impact and increased carbon footprint of having a child, and the more existential question of whether it's fair to bring another human being into the world when the planet is facing so much danger and uncertainty. Those who do have young children are worried about what they might face in their future.
Yet, despite all of this, many people struggle to find a counsellor or therapist who they feel comfortable with discussing their fears around eco anxiety and climate grief.
So how can we find the right person to discuss our fears and anxieties with, without the fear of being pathologised or feeling dismissed in a society that is quite often in denial?
Finding the right counsellor
Widen your search: online counselling
One of the benefits of online counselling is that it opens up a much wider spectrum of potential therapists. No longer are we forced to find someone within our local area who we feel that we might ‘gel’ with – geography isn’t an issue for online work.
Search engines and online directories often allow us to input keywords or phrases such as ‘counsellor working with climate anxiety’. If someone’s advertising themselves as working with this topic then it’s safe to say that they’ll probably view your feelings as valid responses rather than an ‘over-reaction’ or ‘catastrophisation.’ The lack of commute can also be appealing to people who want to minimise their carbon footprint. There’s no need to get in the car or use public transport to get to the therapist’s office when you can log in from your home.
Ask in your initial contact or consultation
If you find the profile or website of a counsellor that you like the look of, but they haven’t specifically stated if they work with environmental themes, feel free to ask them outright. Many counsellors offer free consultations where you can get a feel for them as a person and how they work. Don’t be afraid to ask them about specific topics and how they feel about working with them. A good counsellor won’t be offended and will be happy that you're seeking out the right counsellor for you by asking relevant questions.
Look at their website, social media and blogs
Does their website specifically mention eco-anxiety, climate grief or similar themes? Have they made any social media posts or written any blogs or articles about the topic? Many counsellors who are passionate about this topic will make it known in their online presence.
Referrals and word of mouth
If you're part of a network of peers, perhaps a friendship or activist group, who share similar concerns and feelings about the environment then use this opportunity to ask if anyone has any recommendations for counsellors who work with these themes. Sometimes a counsellor might not be able to work with you if they're working with someone whom you know but, even in these circumstances, they may know of another suitable counsellor who they can make a referral to.
Don’t give up
It’s OK to change counsellors if you have a bad experience or if you don’t feel like they’re quite right for you after an initial consultation. It's important that you find the right person for you and that you feel accepted and truly heard. It can be easy to feel very alone and overwhelmed when experiencing eco-anxiety and climate grief.
People who are tuned into their feelings on the matter can often hold a huge sense of responsibility and despair, especially if those around them are in denial or not in the same place in their emotional journey. Burnout is common in activist communities and those seeking solutions to climate change. Finding a counsellor who understands can be incredibly worthwhile, valuable and transformative. You don't have to process this all alone.
In the words of Joanna Macy,
"Don't ever apologise for crying for the trees burning in the Amazon or over the waters polluted from mines in the Rockies. Don't apologise for the sorrow, grief or rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal."
- Joanna Macy