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Worried about climate change? This Seattle therapist says you're not alone

Ted S. Warren
The Associated Press file
The evening sun shines through a U.S. flag in Tacoma in August 2017, the sky behind it hazy with smoke from wildfires.

The wildfires, drought and off-the-charts heat in the Northwest are just a few examples of extreme weather events that sound the climate-change alarm bells.

Early today, the IPCC released a report saying climate change is rapid, widespread and intensifying. The UN Secretary General is calling the report "code red for humanity."

For some of you, climate change might be all you can think about right now. And thinking about it can weigh on you.

About five years ago, Seattle therapist Andrew Bryant noticed that clients were mentioning climate change more and more as they sought treatment for anxiety and depression. These days, about a third of his clients focus their sessions on “climate therapy.”

“What I try to start with is validating people’s feelings,” he told KNKX. “There’s an awful lot of isolation that people feel.”

With a lot of anxieties people have, therapists will try to help them sort out what’s realistic versus what’s exaggerated. Are you really about to lose your job or is that just something you’re worried might possibly happen? But Bryant said with climate change, the concerns are very real.

“We probably need to be more anxious and more worried and more scared about what’s happening if we’re going to do anything about it,” he said.

So, great. What now?

Bryant suggests a few ways to cope. First, write about your feelings. Then, talk to someone — maybe a trusted friend — who can help you feel less alone. And finally, look for people with similar concerns who are taking action. Maybe it’s an advocacy group. Maybe it’s a trail maintenance organization.

The point, Bryant says, is to take it slow, and know you’re probably not alone.

Listen to our conversation with Bryant above.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.