From the Editor
When this issue hits your doormats, COP26, the United Nations’ 26th Conference of the Parties on Climate Change, will be under way in Glasgow, and there will no doubt be extensive coverage of the climate emergency in the media. If the coverage seems overwhelming and unsettling, you may feel that the last place you want to see more of it is in your professional journal. But, as psychoanalyst and author Sally Weintrobe says, it’s time we broke out of our comfortable ‘climate bubble’. If we care about social justice, we can no longer ignore the impact of climate change. And, as Natalie Bailey, BACP Chair, points out in her column this month, it’s the poorest in society who will be hardest hit.
The big question asked of counsellors is whether we are equipped to help clients process climate anxiety and work through their climate grief. According to a BACP/YouGov survey,1 55% of people feel that climate change has impacted on their wellbeing to some degree. Not surprisingly, it’s young people who are most affected. Psychotherapist Caroline Hickman, along with colleagues at the University of Bath, recently undertook the largest-ever survey to date looking into the impact of climate change on young people. Two-thirds of the young people surveyed said they feel sad, afraid and anxious, and four out of 10 reported feeling betrayed, ignored and abandoned by politicians and adults.2
Accepting our own grief, anxiety, shame and impotence in the face of climate change is part of the necessary process of supporting clients. As we did at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to find a way to contain our emotions so we can hold our clients. But facing up to the reality of climate change can ultimately be deeply replenishing, believes Weintrobe, because it ‘leads us to re-evaluate what makes life worth living, and it helps us make genuine repairs wherever we can’. And as Nick Totton says in his wonderfully stimulating ‘Big interview’, there is much we can learn from the climate crisis if we try to find out more about what it is demanding of us. ‘On the rational level,’ he says, ‘the answer is obvious – decarbonise! – but it also needs to be understood as a symptom of the need for deep cultural change.’
Elsewhere in this issue, we take a look at the role of challenge in therapy. In their ‘Best practice’ feature, ‘Embracing challenge in therapy’, Matt Wotton and Graham Johnston pull no punches, calling out our tendency to ‘coast in the countertransference’ and get too comfortable with clients. It certainly gave me food for thought.
Other highlights include Mick Cooper’s raw and personal account of coming close to failing his PhD. We also have a report from the counselling team who helped to shape the Truth Project, a key part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). It’s a great example of the application of counselling skills beyond the therapy room.
As ever, I welcome your feedback on this issue – email me at email@example.com
Sally Brown, Editor
'The pandemic has reminded us of the importance of self-care as practitioners'
Natalie Bailey on 'doing different'
‘I have removed the sticky residue my experiences left me with'
Anna Brooks writes our client column
Outside in: How does the natural world inform your therapy work?
Are we sending trainees to placements beyond their competence?
Dr Delroy Hall speaks for himself