Why aren’t we talking about climate change? – Defences in the therapy room

Macagnino, Trudi (2022). Why aren’t we talking about climate change? – Defences in the therapy room. British Gestalt Journal, 31(2) pp. 14–23.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.53667/OFYO8346


Increased attention is being given to the psychological impact of climate change, often termed eco-anxiety, which is predicted to increase and be widespread. Despite this, therapists and clients do not frequently discuss this in their sessions. Indirect side-mentions may be made by clients but these are often not opened up for further exploration. This paper outlines findings from narrative interviews with therapists and clients that show both are defended in sessions against potentially overwhelming feelings. A variety of mechanisms including unconscious individual, organisational and social defences are observed. I draw on the concepts of containment, transitional space and the therapeutic third help to understand these dynamics. Findings suggest that therapists need training and to have worked through their own anxieties regarding climate change in order to work effectively and safely with clients around this issue. I conclude that therapy needs to be re-visioned as a psycho-social endeavour.

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