Legal professionals may be exposed to their clients’ trauma on a daily basis. Repeated exposure to clients' stories of injury, assault, or other trauma-related occurrences is mandatory for many lawyers, yet, the effects of trauma exposure can be harmful to mental health and overall well-being.
Legal professionals may discount their own mental health in comparison to their clients’, as their clients endured the trauma first-hand. Still, it is essential for lawyers to actively monitor how trauma exposure affects their own mental health to avoid negative consequences. Studies show that for some lawyers, trauma exposure can give rise to PTSD, among other mental health-related problems.
There are ways to safely build trauma-informed client relationships that limit harm from indirect trauma exposure. One effective practice to mitigate the harmful effects of trauma exposure is “trauma-informed supervision.” This practice encourages lawyers to share their vicarious trauma experiences, access emotional health resources, and participate in self-care practices. Though the science on trauma exposure is relatively new, strong trauma-informed supervision programs have been shown to improve overall lawyer well-being.
Though adverse mental health effects may arise due to vicarious trauma, lawyers still must be able to develop a strong trauma-informed relationship with their clients. Advice on how lawyers can build better attorney-client relationships in trauma-informed circumstances can be found on the American Bar Association’s website.
The Well-being Blog is a collaborative effort between members of the Utah State Bar's Well-Being Committee for the Legal Profession and others who are committed to improving the health, well-being, and professional success of Utah Legal professionals.