Climate change is underway to such an extent that we’re facing a species-wide challenge, writes Fred Ehresmann in our lead feature. His passionate cri de couer for the state of our planet is taken from his chapter in Holding the Hope: reviving psychological and spiritual agency in the face of climate change, published by PCCS Books. ‘To use a medical metaphor,’ he writes, ‘if our home planet were a patient, there would be a crash team, tubes, bleeping machines, an army of nurses and a small gaggle of specialist consultants on hand.’
Fred takes a solution-focused (SF) approach to work with his client, Mae, who presents with ‘eco-anxiety’, a term that’s entering the zeitgeist with the same speed as climate change itself. Through his analysis of a verbatim transcript from a session with Mae, Fred demonstrates how the SF approach invites her to consider ways in which she might be mobilised in the face of environmental anxiety that can otherwise cause overwhelm and despair.
As the transcript illustrates, the role of the SF therapist is to listen for the seeds of the next question in what the client has just said, staying receptive and present, with an attitude of not-knowing. He writes, ‘…[the] approach reminds me that it’s not within my gift to make things better for others, but rather I can trust in their ingenuity, resourcefulness and aspirations for their future, even when present circumstances appear so desperate’.
The SF process is relational and reciprocal, and, having been deeply affected by environmental despair himself, Fred’s expertise comes from lived experience. As a father, he ends with a prescient question posed by his youngest daughter, anxious about our dying planet, and fearing that she might not live to experience either adolescence or adulthood:
‘Imagine it’s a few years in the future and whoever are still here are sitting around talking about how they managed to get this far. They’re looking back and talking about now, and you and me and all the others who want to do something. And they’re grateful to us. Imagine that you could listen in to what they’re saying about you and what you did… How would you like that conversation to go?’ A question well worth us all considering.
Also in this issue, Neill Bartlett considers the role of judgment in psychotherapy; Myira Khan writes about the need to understand our own identity to ensure we practise anti-oppressively; and Jeremy Sachs argues for the need for healthy narcissism to have a good sex life.
For counsellors and psychotherapists in private practice. The quarterly professional journal of BACP Private Practice division.
Emergency on planet earth
Open article: Fred Ehresmann takes a solution-focused approach to navigate the tidal wave of suffering and hold hope for those in despair at the state of our planet. Private Practice, June 2023
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