Climate psychology is a relatively new field, rooted in psychotherapeutic ways of understanding human responses to the climate crisis. The writers listed below explore the nature of the human relationship to the rest of the natural world, the defences people use to avoid engaging with climate change, and the experiences of anxiety, loss, grief and mourning which people go through when they do face it properly.
Climate psychology draws on psychoanalysis, Jungian psychology, Gestalt and other humanistic approaches and on psycho-social studies. It is a fast-developing field, aimed not just at theoretical understanding but at developing psychotherapeutic practice and at supporting the broad-based practical and professional networks who are struggling to act on climate change.
The books and articles below are organised in chronological order so as to give some idea of how the field has developed and the list is selective. Where articles are behind paywalls, you can approach the author directly for a copy. More information about relevant events, workshops and conferences can be found elsewhere on this website.
Between Harold Searles’ 1972 paper and the millennium there is a tiny scattering of relevant literature. Searles’ paper, written in response to growing environmental awareness in the 1970s and Roszak’s 1995 collection are key beginnings, however – one from a conventional psychoanalytic perspective and the other from a Jungian and spiritual approach – while Macy and Brown offer the beginnings of a practice that has become influential in helping people face environmental crisis.
Searles, H. (1972). Unconscious processes in relation to the environmental crisis. Psychoanalytic Review, 59 (3), 361-374). Available online here.
Ward, I. (1993). Ecological madness, a Freud Museum conference: introductory thoughts. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 10, (2), 178-187. Available online at Research Gate.
Roszak, T., Gomes, M.E., and Kanner, A.D. (Eds.) (1995). Ecopsychology: restoring the earth, healing the mind. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.
Mishan, J. (1996). Psychoanalysis and environmentalism: first thoughts. Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 10 (1), 59-70. Available online at Research Gate.
Macy, J., and Brown, M. (1998). Coming back to life: practices to reconnect our lives, our world. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society.
This decade saw researchers begin to explore the dynamics of denial, issues of grief and people’s damaged relationship to nature in more detail. Stanley Cohen wrote the now-classic sociological text on denial, while Stoll-Kleeman, Randall and Norgaard began to unpick its processes in relation to climate change. Glenn Albrecht introduced the term ‘solastalgia’ to describe people’s grief at environmental destruction and Renee Lertzman focused on how apathy could conceal similar feelings; Rosemary Randall explored the need for people to mourn the life-styles that would be lost in mitigating and adapting to climate change; and Mary-Jayne Rust picked up questions of the myths we live by and their relation to environmental crisis.
Cohen, S. (2001). States of Denial. London: Polity Press.
Stoll-Kleeman, S., O’Riordan, T., and Jaeger, C. (2001). The psychology of denial concerning climate mitigation measures: evidence from Swiss focus groups. Global Environmental Change, 11, 107-117. Available online here or via Research Gate.
Albrecht, G. (2005). Solastalgia: a new concept in health and identity. Philosophy, Activism, Nature, 3, 41-55. Available online at Research Gate.
Randall, R. (2005). A new climate for psychotherapy? Psychotherapy and Politics International, 3 (3), 165-179. Available online here.
Lertzman, R. (2008). The myth of apathy. The Ecologist, 19 (6), 16-17. Available online here.
Norgaard, K. (2006). We don’t really want to know: the social experience of global warming: dimensions of denial and enviromental justice. Oranisation and Environment 19 (3), 347-470. Available online here.
Rust, M.-J. (2008). Climate on the couch. Psychotherapy and Politics International, 6 (3), 157- 170. Available online here.
Randall, R. (2009). Loss and climate change: the cost of parallel narratives. Ecopsychology 1, 3, 118-129. Available online here.
Bodnar, S. (2008) Wasted and bombed: clinical enactments of a changing relationship to the earth. Psychoanalytical Dialogues, 18, 484-512.
Crompton, T. and Kasser, T. (2009). Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity. Goldalming: WWF-UK.
This decade has seen climate psychology take off. There are theoretical contributions (Weintrobe, Dodds, Head, Orange, Lertzman), psycho-social explorations (Hoggett, Norgaard, Hoggett and Randall), studies of the implications for therapy (Jordan and Marshall, Totton, Bednarek) and practical applications (Macy and Johnstone, Randall and Brown, Manley). From the non-therapeutic perspective, climate communicator George Marshall draws on evolutionary psychology to explain the failure to act and offers advice on how to communicate better.
Jordan, M. and Marshall, H. (2010). Taking counselling and psychotherapy outside. European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling, 12 (4), 345-359. Available online at Research Gate.
Dodds, J. (2011). Psychoanalysis and ecology at the edge of chaos. London: Routledge.
Hoggett, P. (2011). Climate change and the apocalyptic imagination. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society. 16 (3), 261-275. Available online here.
Norgaard, K. (2011). Living in denial: climate change, emotions and everyday life. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Totton, N. (2011). Wild therapy: undomesticating inner and outer worlds. Monmouth: PCCS Books.
Macy, J., and Johnstone, C. (2012). Active hope: how to face the mess we’re in without going crazy. Novato, California: New World Library.
Rust, M.-J., and Totton, N. (2012). Vital signs: psychological responses to ecological crisis. London: Karnac.
Weintrobe, S. (2013). Engaging with climate change: psychoanalytic and interdisciplinary perspectives. London: Routledge.
Marshall, G. (2014). Don’t even think about it: why our brains are wired to ignore climate change. London: Bloomsbury.
Randall, R., and Brown, A. (2015). In time for tomorrow: the carbon conversations handbook. Available online here.
Robertson, C. (2015). Well-being of misfortune: accepting ecological disaster. Climate Psychology Alliance. Available on the website here.
Lertzman, R. (2015). Environmental melancholia. London: Routledge.
Anderson, J. and Robertson, C. (Eds.) (2016). Climate change and radical hope. The Psychotherapist, Special Issue, 63. London: UKCP.
Head, L. (2016). Hope and grief in the anthropocene. London: Routledge.
Orange, D. (2016). Climate crisis, psychoanalysis and radical ethics. London: Routledge.
Andrews, N. (2017). Psychosocial factors influencing the experience of sustainability professionals. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy, 8(4), 445-469.
Hoggett, P. and Randall, R. (2018). Engaging with climate change: comparing the cultures of science and activism. Environmental Values 27, 223-243. Winwick, Cambridgeshire: The White Horse Press. Available online here.
Bednarek, S. (2018). How wide is the field? Gestalt therapy, capitalism and the natural world. British Gestalt Journal 2018, Vol. 27, No. 2, 8-17. Available online here.
Manley, J. (2018). Social dreaming, associative thinking and intensities of affect. London: Palgrave MacMillan.
Andrews, N. (2018). How cognitive frames about nature may affect felt sense of nature connectedness. Ecopsychology Journal, 10(1).
Hoggett, P. and Robertson, C. (2018), Climate psychology: a big idea. In Flynn, H. (Ed.). Four go In search of big ideas. Social Liberal Forum.
Andrews, N. and Hoggett, P. (2019). Facing up to ecological crisis: a psychosocial perspective from climate psychology. In Foster, J. (Ed.) Facing up to climate reality: honesty, disaster and hope. London: Green House Publishing.
Hoggett, P. (Ed.) (2019). Climate psychology: on indifference to disaster. London: Palgrave Macmillan.