Lawyers struggle with disproportionally high levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.
And yet, thanks to the stigma surrounding mental healthcare, we’re also reluctant to seek treatment.
That’s a problem. By its nature, a law career comes along with a lot of pressure, which can be tough for even the healthiest among us. And electing to ignore or avoid any issues with your emotional wellbeing can make them even worse. You wouldn’t tell a client to pretend they didn’t need a lawyer and ignore your recommendations, so why would you basically do the same thing with your own mental health?
Below, some common reasons lawyers are reluctant to seek help from therapists … and why those reasons don’t hold up to scrutiny.
Seeing a Therapist Means You’re Crazy
Let’s debunk the easiest one first: Seeing a therapist doesn’t mean you’re crazy. Depression and anxiety are treatable issues; the bigger problem is the stigma surrounding getting help, especially among lawyers. Completely sane, competent, successful people – yes, even in law – see therapists all the time. That doesn’t mean therapy is definitely for you, but it might be. And if it is, that doesn’t make you nuts. It actually might be more of an indicator that you take yourself, and your career, seriously and want to do your best.
Seeing a Therapist Means You’re a Failure
As we know, lawyers are overachievers and hate to fail. Unfortunately, though, too many of us believe that seeing a therapist means we’ve failed to fix our problems on our own and have therefore failed as a lawyer. But would you consider yourself a failure if you broke your arm and weren’t able to set it in a cast by yourself?
We thought so. Mental health is still health, and receiving the appropriate kind of healthcare doesn’t make someone a failure, even if that someone is working hard to build a reputation for being the lawyer who can handle anything.
Seeing a Therapist Means You’re Weak
To lawyers, showing feelings means you’re weak. In this field, emotions are something you do your best to hide or ignore, not discuss. Conversely, therapy requires you to be open, honest, and, yes, vulnerable (yet another word anathema to lawyers). That’s so against the norm for us that it can seem scary or wrong. It’s important to understand that talking about your emotions, and even admitting struggles, doesn’t make you weak. Learning how to appropriately channel your emotions can even benefit your career.
Seeing a Therapist Means You’re Not Cut Out for Law
Practicing law is stressful. You probably knew that when you decided to go to law school, and you definitely figured it out by the time you signed up for the bar. Sometimes, that stress can become too much to handle. But being unable to handle the stress of the career on your own doesn’t mean you’re not equipped to handle your job. It means you’re a human and like all humans, are subject to emotions. Seeing a therapist can help you cope with the stress and pressure that come along with the career.
Seeing a Therapist Will Damage Your Reputation
Chances are, even if your firm’s managing partner or biggest client were to find out you were seeing a therapist, they wouldn’t care (for all you know, they’re in therapy too). But let’s say you’re convinced they would care and would judge you for it. The good news is therapy is completely confidential. Your therapist cannot, even if asked, discuss your treatment with anyone else. If you’re still concerned, however, many therapists will allow you to pay them out of pocket, instead of billing through your firm’s insurance. That way, there’s not even a record that someone in your firm could stumble upon.
Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you think you might benefit from working with a therapist, you should act on that inclination. Give it a shot. Seeking help for your emotional wellbeing doesn’t make you a failure as a lawyer or a person, and it can help manage the stress inherent most lawyers’ lives.
If you’ve been struggling with your mental health, do yourself a favor: Research a few options and make an appointment as soon as possible. Don’t wait!