Alternative Title

How mental health clinicians receive and respond to indirect psychological impacts of climate change in the therapeutic setting

Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type

Mixed methods


School for Social Work


Climate changes-Psychological aspects, Global warming-Psychological aspects, Psychotherapist and patient, Environmental psychology, Psychotherapy-Political aspects, Countertransference (Psychology), Climate change, Global warming, Climate psychology, Eco-psychology, Environmental concerns, Eco-anxiety, Climate change related distress, Person-in-environment, Countertransference, Politics in therapy, Online survey


The scientific community has reached near consensus that climate change (also known as anthropogenic global warming) poses a significant and potentially dire threat to the ecosystems upon which we, as humans and as a society, rest. While climate change is most often discussed in terms of its effect on the natural environmental, its psychological impacts are also expected to be immense and varied and include indirect distress related to the threat that climate change poses. The purpose of this study was to explore how this kind of indirect distress gets talked about in the therapeutic setting. Using a mixed methods online survey of mental health clinicians across the US, the study examined how and how often the topic of climate change comes up in therapy, and how therapists receive and respond to comments and conversations about climate change with their clients. The results indicate that at this point climate change is not talked about frequently or by a significant number of clients, but the topic certainly arises and can be a source of significant distress for some clients. Moreover, the findings suggest that the internal reactions that therapists have to the topic of climate change may impact how they receive and respond to clients who talk about it in therapy, and also indicate that although the majority of therapists believe climate change is relevant to their field, many do not feel that that their training has equipped them to deal with the subject.




iv, 130 pages. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma., 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 96-104)

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Social Work Commons