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What We Do

With the growing awareness that we face a crisis that threatens ecological and social collapse, there is increasing urgency in addressing questions about how, as a species, we can adapt and respond to this new reality. The Climate Psychology Alliance provides a space to explore together how we can face these difficult truths, and build a shared understanding of how climate psychology can contribute in the context of the ecological and climate crisis.

Climate change is not a scientific problem waiting for a technical solution. It’s an urgent, frightening, systemic problem involving environment, culture and politics. It engenders fear, denial and despair amongst individuals, and evasion, indifference and duplicity amongst the powerful. It forces uncomfortable dilemmas about justice, nature and equality into consciousness. It challenges us all both personally and politically.

To work with these dilemmas, the CPA draws on a broad range of perspectives including philosophy, the arts and humanities, ecology and systems thinking.

Our core focus however is in psycho-social studies and the psychotherapy field. These approaches help us to understand the unconscious processes and emotions that influence our thoughts, beliefs and behaviour, and which can manifest in mutually reinforcing systems of defence in society.

Anxiety, guilt and shame make it very difficult for people to face the reality of climate change and lead to denial and disavowal, while the norms and structures of everyday life validate and reinforce these responses. See the   for an introduction to these key concepts.

Five key principles define our approach

heads in bagsRecognise our part in the problem

To be part of the solution, those of us based in the Global North must first recognise that we are part of the problem, part of that richest 20% of the world whose lifestyles are based upon heavy fossil fuel consumption.

In addition to the radical task of eliminating greenhouse gases from the global economy, the CPA therefore believes in the necessity of challenging the consumerist paradigm:

  • the notion that human beings are somehow superior to and separate from Nature;
  • the idea that all the problems we create can be solved by technology;
  • the dangerous delusion that economics is of a higher order than ecology and that environmental costs can ever be ‘externalised’.

As an organisation primarily based in the UK and global north, part of the CPA’s work is to challenge the cultural norms of privilege, as well as to build dialogue and collaborations with international members and organisations, exchanging and learning from other perspectives. This means recognising the intertwining of social and racial injustice, the global economic order, and the ecological and climate crisis.

Address existential shame

The slow awakening to our destructive exploitation of natural resources coincides with a growing awareness in Western culture of the earth as a living being.  It is partly the feelings of existential shame for our species and our sense of self-betrayal in this realisation is part of what that climate psychology attempts to address.

treeThe analytic view is that this destructive relationship with the earth is an attack on the mother who has nurtured our species but whom we now, in our modern technological triumph, resent for our feelings of dependence.

Repairing this rupture, this alienation from inner and outer nature, is a huge challenge as our species faces a rite of passage marked by the end of carbon-fuelled civilisation.

Restore what has been repressed

The short-term success of technology in modern society has given us a false promise of unlimited growth, seeming to justify the domination and plundering of the earth’s finite resources. Climate psychology therefore seeks to restore what has been repressed by welcoming and bringing feelings, imagination, values and justice back into the centre of the human picture.

Hold the tension between hope and despair

Rather than split connections apart, we need to hold the tension between hope and despair, between complacency and alarmism, between action and reflection. When these tensions are successfully held, a vision emerges which can open up an engagement that is both practical and creative.

Offer understanding and support

Climate psychology acknowledges how anxiety and feelings of helplessness are generated by attempting to face into the dreadful possibility of self-destruction and possible species extinction. It seeks both an understanding of denial and how emotional support can address the harmful psychological impacts.

Climate anxiety is spreading and beginning to permeate therapists’ consulting rooms. Many of climate change’s "canaries", those such as activists and scientists, are at times having to face unmanageable feelings of despair, anger and grief and the Climate Psychology Alliance is responding to a growing volume of calls for support.

truthsWe believe that the therapeutic community has a vital role both in providing support and in deepening our understanding of how climate anxiety plays out both in our individual lives and in our culture. We hope that this work can also throw light upon the psychological resources – acceptance of the tragedy in the mass extinctions of species and the ability to grieve our losses as well as resilience, courage, radical hope and new forms of imagination that support change.

Our current focus 

Our members contribute in a variety of ways: through research and inquiry, through outreach programmes, therapeutic support, strengthening and supporting communities, and facilitating interdisciplinary collaborations and dialogues. However, we have four current priorities.

Research

A number of CPA members are involved in research, publishing  books, chapters and academic papers on a range of topics in the field, organising conferences, panels or summits . Recent publications include Climate Psychology: a Matter of Life and Death (2022) by Wendy Hollway, Paul Hoggett, Chris Robertson and Sally Weintrobe, Psychological Roots of the Climate Crisis (2021) by Sally Weintrobe, and Climate Psychology: On Indifference to Disaster (2019) edited by Paul Hoggett which brings together contributions from members on new methods for exploring lived experience and thinking the unthinkable, including emotional work, reflexivity, social dreaming and collaborative narratives.

Therapeutic Support

A network of therapists able to offer support to groups and individuals is now operating in several parts of the country and growing rapidly. This includes one-off or up to three sessions available at no cost for people affected by the ecological and climate crisis. See our Therapeutic Support List and Map .

Outreach

We believe there is a need for developing a shared practice that moves beyond the consulting room. We offer regular professional development workshops ‘Through the Door’, for psychotherapists, counsellors and other psychology professionals who want to offer their skills to the wider climate movement. See our Professional Development  page for details.

Following participation in these workshops members run a wide range of outreach activities: Climate Cafés , workshops on better communication, support groups for parents and scientists, working with young people and providing training and support for activists. We now have a youth support programme  and parent climate circles  to explore the specific concerns and feelings that young people and parents experience.

Several CPA members also offer talks and consultancy  on climate psychology, eco-anxiety and how to navigate grief and loss in the face of the climate and ecological crises to a range of groups and organisations.

Our series of podcast  conversations addresses topics such as talking to children, climate grief and hope, the power of art, and many more.

Handbook of Climate Psychology

The Handbook of Climate Psychology  is a collective project providing an introduction to key concepts central to the process of deepening our shared understanding of climate psychology. It is a work of ‘the commons’ that unfolds over time and provides a valuable online resource for users of our website.

See also the monthly Climate Crisis Digest , which provides short monthly reflections by CPA members on a range of topics.

I'm very struck by how much in this article is covered in a different way now by the What is Climate Psychology page. Just a thought, but shouldn't this What we do be much more of a slimmed down pointer page for an outside audience as in Mark's suggestion. I think this page was written in the spirit of the current website. There's 3 main parts to it 1) The first 5 paras are defintiely replicated elsewhere , 2) then the 5 principles part could be a blog then 4) what we do which  doesn't speifically mention youth.