New Cohorts of the Ecotherapy and Climate-Conscious Therapy Consultation Group Start on January 19, 2022

The need for training up mental health providers to address the impacts of the climate crisis is growing. In the Pacific Northwest, with the wildfires, smoke, and extreme storms of recent years, climate issues have become an everyday stressor. This is true for me and my family, my friends and neighbors, and clients I work with. This is also true for counselors and therapists worldwide.

I had humble goals for the new training and consult group for mental health professionals I started last fall. I hoped it would be a resource for a new generation of climate-conscious healthcare providers looking for guidance and peer support for their ecotherapy work.

The group exceeded my expectations. I was lucky to have two full cohorts of made up of 20 gifted attendees from around the world, including the US, Canada, Germany, Finland, and Australia. I clarified what is helpful to a range of counselors and received some positive feedback:

“This group has helped me to understand eco and climate issues at a deeper level. The training offered tangible, structured interventions that I can use with clients. I have been able to learn from professionals located around the world, which has fostered a very rich environment for learning, self-reflection, and application.”

“Thomas shares a wealth of information … and offers multiple lens from which to gain perspective and support ourselves and our clients. He is a seasoned clinician and covered ethics at the beginning of the group, which provided a secure container from which to explore.”

“For personal wellbeing this group has been great to get to connect with other group members and hear about their work, it is creating a wonderful sense of community and connection.”

“It’s helping me clarify how a lot of things fit together, both in my professional life and in my personal life in dealing with my own climate change anxiety.”

“I had never even heard of Ecotherapy or Climate Therapy before; now I have such a powerful foundational understanding of what that is and where to begin my journey. Through this group, I was connected to a compassionate community of people who are dedicated to promoting health and well- being. Dr. Doherty creates a calm, open space where introspection and sharing come naturally. Thank you Dr. Doherty!”

“Perfect for anyone working with young people depressed about their future in the face of Climate Change.”

“The follow up emails and google drive are super helpful!”

Experience and Lessons Applied

I draw upon 20+ years of experience now, of research, teaching, and working with the public. In the pilot series we practiced exercises I have developed for clients and reviewed new information like the chapter on addressing climate change I recently co-authored for a clinical psychology textbook.

I am excited to offer a new group series beginning on January 19, 2022. Over ten weekly meetings, the group will instruct mental health providers how to recognize and diagnose mental health problems associated with climate change and other environment issues, how to adapt their current therapy techniques, and how to support healthy coping and adapting to a climate-changed world.

The providers will have an opportunity to confidentially discuss their cases and gain support and insight. And they will clarify their own values and what kinds of environmental actions are authentic and appropriate for them as mental health professionals.

Environmental Identity-Based Therapy

A unique aspect of my approach is that I am knowledgeable of a range of research in environmental psychology and the social sciences and can translate these for mental health professionals.  This includes Environmental Identity (“EI”), our self-concept and relationship with nature, other species, and important places. Like gender and other forms of identity, “EI” tends to be unrecognized until we are taught to express it. Understanding Environmental Identity provides a base on which to build ecotherapy activities and to develop the mental health professional’s own identity and style.

Again, multicultural awareness is key, and we address racism and social justice issues head on.

Also, part of this work will be deeply personal. Group members will reflect on their own sense of self, environmental identity, culture, values, gender, sexual orientation, privilege and experience of injustice or trauma– all the intersections we inhabit.

The Group Operates on some General Principles:

  • Know your ethics and “first, do no harm.”
  • Connection with nature is a core component of physical and mental health.
  • Connection with nature is a birthright of people from all cultures, and we celebrate a diversity of environmental identities.
  • All so-called environmental problems are also social justice problems, in Oregon and around the world.
  • We have “Issues and issues”: The global Issues we want to address, and our own personal issues that can hold us back.
  • Mental health professionals already have many skills to help people deal with eco-distress, they help in applying them.
  • In an age of climate change and eco-anxiety, competency in understanding people’s environmental identity and values is important for all counselors and therapists; and this can also be a specialty.
  • We have a balanced view of science: we base our work on evidence and also recognize science can separate humans from the rest of nature and ignore the rights of other species.
  • There is no one way to cope with climate change. We practice “climate cosmopolitanism” and look to many kinds of solutions (political, economic, social, and spiritual).
  • From a systems perspective, health begets health. We when we act on sustainability, it can improve our physical well-being and mood. Acting on climate change is good for mental health.

The Ecotherapy and Climate Therapy Consultation Group is open to professionals across disciplines including psychotherapists, counselors, psychologists, social workers, medical professionals, and other healthcare providers.

For more information, contact Thomas Doherty, Psy.D.

Published by Thomas Doherty

Psychologist Thomas Doherty's work on environmental sustainability and health has been featured in publications like the New York Times and in talks worldwide. Thomas consults with individuals and organizations through his business Sustainable Self. He was the founding Director of the Ecopsychology Certificate Program at Lewis & Clark Graduate School and Founding Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed academic journal Ecopsychology. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *