What Do Therapy and Criminal Law Have in Common?
It’s hard to imagine two professions that are less alike than psychotherapy and criminal law. Or so you’d think! After all, criminal law deals with laws and rules, with evidence, argument and ultimately, with winning or losing. Not concepts that you learn in therapy training!
I had the pleasure recently of meeting a group of criminal lawyers. Listening to their stories about their practices and the struggles they are dealing with, I found myself thinking how much the two professions have in common.
For example, I was surprised to hear one speaker talking about the dangers of vicarious trauma among criminal lawyers, and the importance of building resilience and coping strategies. Among the list of suggestions made to improve resilience and manage the potential impact of the work, the speaker made reference to the supervision model used by the therapy profession, and said that it was being used with good effect by some lawyers! It seems the need for good self-care is alive and well in the legal profession, as well as in our own.
Another lawyer spoke of the challenges of keeping up to date with ever changing regulations relating to lodging of appeals. As she spoke of the ambiguity of some of the regulations and the challenges for practitioners in making judgements about their application, I found myself thinking about the Child Protection rules. I was reminded that although the contexts are very different, criminal lawyers too are ultimately concerned with the interests of their clients.
However, the area where I felt the two professions had most in common was in relation to the challenge of balancing the client’s needs and our own, and this is especially so in relation to the question of money. The group I met consisted mostly of small practices, of one or perhaps two professionals. In relation to the running and management of their own practices, the issues are virtually identical. Like therapists, for criminal lawyers there is no shortage of clients who are looking for help. Those who are the victims or the perpetrators of crime are often struggling with other challenges in their life, either human or financial. Human suffering is no less obvious in the Four Courts than it is in therapy rooms. The challenge for practitioners of any persuasion who are financially reliant on their practices is to find those who need help and are also able to pay for it.
Managing time and priorities, keeping up to date through appropriate CPD, staying on top of the record keeping, networking and making connections; all of these are common tasks of any professionals. Legal training is no different from therapy training in that it focuses on teaching how the client work should be done, with little emphasis on the skills and knowledge needed to set up and run a small business. Consequently, criminal lawyers are no better placed than their counterparts in counselling, when starting out to run a practice. If they are lucky, they will have learnt something from the firm in which they served their apprenticeships, but many make it to qualifying with little or no support in this area.
I was very grateful to have the opportunity of seeing the similarities between these two very diverse professions. Perhaps we have something to learn from each other!
And if I can help you with any aspect of running your therapy practice, I’d love to help you. Please contact me here to make an appointment or to avail of a your free 20 minute consultation.