Thursday, July 31, 2008

Eco-Anxiety: Exploitation and Other Misconceptions

"What about the perception that therapists and green activists who deal with eco-anxiety are exploiting people's fears?" I was asked this question by two reporters this week. I also received a blog claiming eco-anxiety is a "new fabulous fear that is milked by... ruthless profiteers."

Have you encountered such accusations? Do you find these to be odd perceptions? I do. I'm not aware that we as therapists are accused of exploiting those who come to us suffering from other psychic wounds such as depression, alcoholism, addictions, stress from chronic overworking, loss of a loved one and so forth. What is the difference here and how should we best respond?

It would seem one difference is that there are those who think this is a manufactured concern, whipped up by the media and greedy practitioners. My respsonse has been to explain that I certainly hope no fears were being exploited, but instead that the therapists I know are responding to real concerns brought to them by clients who come to them, just as they would when clients come to them with other concerns and problems to us.

Another misconception seems to be that eco-therapists work stricktly with eco-anxiety. Reporters often point out that there are 600 listed eco-therapists and assume we are all specializing in treating eco-anxiety. I've written here previously about the role of ecopsychology, pointing out 1st that it's not a new field and 2nd that eco-therapists work with many different social, psychological and educational concerns. I also explain as I have in the previous article why it is also helpful modality to address eco-anxiety.

Have you been encountering such misconceptions? Are the other misperceptions you're runing into? How are you responding? How would you respond. Let's compare notes.


  1. I have never heard of these perceptions about eco-anxiety and ecotherapy...but as I am in the process of starting an "organic counseling" practice in Tucson, I am very appreciative--if also saddened and alarmed--to become aware of them. Hmmm...sounds like a classic case of "projection" to me. They can't imagine any other motive for the work we're doing.
    By the way, my practice will be based on a sliding scale donation request basis, and no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Yes, I'm all about exploitation. Sigh.

    Hopefully, the outreach approach I have been developing may assuage any suspicions of exploitation. For instance,

    "It is wonderful and healthy to 'green' your home, workplace, and lifestyle. Now--complete the process by 'greening' your state of mind, too."

    We'll see how this flies. :-)

    I hope to personally reflect the ability of the rest of nature to focus on attractions rather than let negatives deter them.

    Thanks, Sarah,
    Allison in Tucson

  2. I just discovered your site. This is wonderful and I thank you so much.

    Good to validate the emotions, and continue the process, and hear how others cope and thrive.

  3. Glad you found us, Richard. Thanks, Sarah

  4. Wishing you the best in your new counseing practice, Allison. Projection ... an excellent insight. If that is what's on someone's mind in their own life, they are likely to assume it is on the minds of others. Or they have been ripped off too often by a no-holds-barred consumer society that they have a cynical, paranoid
    and suspicious view of others' motives. In a commoditized industrial society each person's work is too often demeaned to the point of having no instrinsic personal value or meaning. Instead strictly about the income. That sense of valuelessness is then easily projected onto others,the assumption being that others to are also doing what they do strictly for income and out to get as much as they can.
    Coming from a family of
    professionals who were working for the benefits to others that could come from their work, income was the reward for making a personal and social contribution through valuable work. It has only been in the past 10 years or so that I've noticed how how even professions like medicine, law, education, and I guess in the minds of some, mental health careers, have suffered from this disconnection from the value of their work. This is a huge mindset change that will need to change if we are to respond to a challenged economy without increased hatred, violence and distrust. As Knustler says we must stop thinking of ourselves are consumers! We are citizens.