Engaging in collaborative research and crossing disciplinary boundaries – University of Sydney

By James Dunk and Paul Rhodes, College of Questionnaire

Our Collaborative Fellowship project is a youth-led participatory action project on climate distress . In collaboration with a group of youth advisors we are developing an innovative, community-based approach to responding to earth emotions, based on the principles of Open Dialogue, a Scandinavian network therapy drawn from Bateson’s systems theory and the dialogic theory associated with Mikhail Bakhtin (which in turn draws upon Dostoyevsky’s novels). We’re working to adapt Open Dialogue for intergenerational encounters around weather change – a crucial flashpoint of affective tension  – plus for Australian settings.

Each of us – researchers and youth experts alike – seem in order to be arriving at new realisations around environment distress, not only about our own individual experiences but about the different experience of climate change across different generations, and other categories. We already have one paper accepted in Australian Psychologist , which calls on clinical psychologists to re-consider the epistemological challenges posed by ecopsychology.

We’re also working with the particular third member of our study team, Jordan Koder, on a review associated with climate psychology. Jordan is a young occupational therapist who specialises in mental health occupational therapy, and the first mover in the project. It was he who first approached John with a concern that mental health clinicians seemed poorly equipped to talk about climate distress.

With the help of Margarete Horstmann, the master’s student in Psychology, we’ve been coding plus interpreting the data from our meetings and we’re excited to write up our findings in the particular months to come. This will include some writing with the young participant leaders with whom we’ve been working.

We’re furthermore moving to secure funding for a substantial task which would see the Sydney Environment Institute partnered along with Relationships Australia and Psychologists for a Safe Climate in order to further refine and test these innovative and effective methods of navigating individual and collective climate distress, and generate an evidence base to establish them on a sure footing.   Our own hope will be that this research will help turn despair into hope and paralysis into activism.    

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