Q&A

Questions and AnswersIn this area of the site, you can find answers to non-legal questions about the human side of lawyering.  Answers are written by licensed clinicians with the purpose of providing information, and are not a substitute for a clinical evaluation.

We do not post responses to questions that seem to be frivolous or unrelated to our mission, or that don’t seem to be from Massachusetts lawyers, law students, judges (or family members). We have no way to check back with you, because of the mechanism that keeps this anonymous.

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CURRENT QUESTION(S) OF THE WEEK

WORRIED ABOUT DISCLOSING PRACTICE-RELATED PROBLEMS TO THERAPIST

QUESTION:

I am a small practice new attorney struggling with low self-steam, procrastination, and anxiety (especially when I realize how much I should/could have done). I feel like I know in my mind who I can and should be, the projects I would like to carry out but can’t act to make that a reality. I am also suspecting some sort of mental health issue that is affecting my ability to focus and keep up with schedules.   I currently see a therapist, but I haven’t spoken openly about these struggles as they come and go – at least to some degree, and also because I am a new patient and I’m honestly too embarrassed to disclose that and afraid of having that in any sort of record. (Yes, I understand it’s confidential, but there might also be some paranoia issues).
My question is whether this “general” therapist should be able to help me with these issues or if it is recommended that I seek a specialized one who will more likely to understand these issues well. Also, it would be great if I could be directed to helpful material about coping with/resolving these issues. Plus any advice is welcome.   Thank you.

ANSWER:

Therapists know that it takes time for most of their clients/patients to develop enough comfort and trust to be completely open, but when you get to the point of being able to do so, that’s when the therapist can be most helpful.  People who come to see us at LCL are often very open, partly because many of them wait until things have unraveled to a critical extent.  Since that hasn’t happened for you, the sooner you address these concerns the more likely you can prevent bigger problems later.  Procrastination, anxiety, and variable self-esteem are extremely common.  When I’ve given talks on lawyer procrastination, there is almost no one in the audience who does not relate.

As you say, your worries about what is in your record are out of proportion with reality.  With exceptions having to do with danger to self/others, and perhaps a bit less rarely in the context of child custody battles and court orders, your therapist (assuming s/he is a licensed mental health professional) may not release your records.  In addition, who would really care whether you wrestle with the kinds of common difficulties you mention?

Your other concern is valid – not all therapists will feel equipped to discuss matters related to your job functioning as a lawyer, or to dealing with procrastination, productivity, etc.  You are welcome to augment your therapy by coming in for one or a few sessions with an LCL clinician, and we also at times run time-limited groups focusing on issues like productivity/procrastination, since they are so common especially among solo and small firm practices.  Two of the authors whose work we have read in connection with past groups are:  David Allen (getting things done.com) and Julie Morgenstern (juliemorgenstern.com).  In addition, here is a list to top-rated self-help groups in various psychological topics from FindaPsychologist.org.

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