Poetic Justice is an advice column that offers counter-advice to submissions at other publications whose contributors have failed the reader.
If your therapist doesn’t believe the world is ending over climate change, Slate’s advice columnist suggests it’s time to let her go.
On Tuesday, a distressed reader sought counsel from the online oracle of life advice on what to do when her therapist is not similarly hysterical over environmental Armageddon. The full submission is below:
Q. Therapist is a climate denier: I (30, cis, bi woman) started seeing a therapist in summer 2020. She’s been very helpful in dealing with my bigoted conservative Christian future in-laws, who became extremely radicalized throughout the pandemic. But I’m seriously contemplating if I should stop seeing her.
During our last session, I brought up something I thought would be worth discussing: that sometimes, the state of the world (climate change, rising political turmoil) gets me down. And that being a journalist/editor exacerbates this because knowing everything going on is literally my job. I also explained this is a widespread problem in my field and I’ve taken steps to combat it, such as unplugging outside of work hours. I was shocked that she then launched into a long rant about how climate change isn’t real. She thinks it’s absurd that anyone would consider climate change when deciding where to buy a house or whether or not to have children, which are decisions I will soon have to make. Her only other response was a harsh directive that ‘I can’t obsess about these things 24/7,’ to which I replied that I don’t, that this was literally the first time I ever brought this up, that occasionally worrying about the world seems pretty normal, and that I just wanted space to talk about it. This followed another recent session where I brought up feelings about my family trauma (why I originally sought out therapy), and she was also very dismissive then.
This was in early December. I had to cancel our next appointment because of COVID, and we haven’t had contact since. I’m not sure what to do, because I searched for a therapist for years. It’s so hard to find affordable, accessible care. But on the other hand, I increasingly feel like she’s being dismissive of me and that I can’t trust her. I’m not even sure If I still need therapy. The in-law situation has improved, but I’m worried about losing that lifeline if I ever were to need it again. I think I need to at least schedule one more session to discuss what happened, but should I break up with my therapist?
The advice from Jenée Desmond-Harris, or “Prudence,” was clear and directive. If the therapist doesn’t amplify your own climate anxiety, the invalidation “call[s] her judgment and professionalism into question.”
“It really is hard to find a therapist who’s a good fit,” Desmond-Harris opened her response. “But however long you spent looking for this one, she’s still not right for you!”
You say she’s been helpful on some topics, so you can consider continuing to see her for now (and focus on conversations that feel valuable to you) so you don’t have a huge gap without therapy. But in the meantime, start the search for someone new. Once you’re booked with that person, use your last session to explain why the relationship no longer felt like a good fit, if you’re up for it. Email is also an option if that’s too awkward.
Here’s some better advice: Listen to the therapist and the good news she brings. Why are liberals so often allergic to positive developments that contradict their cataclysmic narratives? Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, for example, is making a triumphant comeback. But it’s gone nearly unreported in U.S. media.
Contrary to the routine depictions of a dying planet plastered across television and the internet, the world is not ending. In fact, the planet we’ve inherited today is the safest it’s ever been, thanks in no small part to rapid development made possible by cheap reliable energy in the form of fossil fuels protecting us from the elements.
Climate-related deaths have dropped more than 98 percent since 1900. Weather has been to blame for 0.07 percent of deaths worldwide and 0.01 percent of deaths in the United States between 1980 and 2014. The falling rate of climate mortality comes after the planet warmed 1 degree Celsius since the Little Ice Age century of the 1800s despite far higher atmospheric pollution than previously existed.
Hurricanes and wildfires are also on the decline, pushing down the cost of climate-related disasters as a share of GDP.
Shouldn’t these statistics, conveniently omitted by Prudence, make the reader feel better? And more willing to bear children or move to the beach?
Whether the therapist was rude is another question. Judging by the reader’s submission, however, her own political biases appear to have blinded her to the comfort provided by her counselor.
Don’t fire the therapist. Rejoice in an open mind and marvel in the magnificence of a world where living beyond 77 years isn’t just a possibility but an expectation.