COLUMN > MEMBER WELLNESS CORNER
By Dan Crystal, Psy.D.
When the WSBA Member Wellness Program hired Adely Ruiz, LSWAIC, in January 2023, we were finally fully staffed and could resume group offerings. I was contacted by an attorney who had connected with other attorneys who had experienced significant mental health challenges and wanted a place at the Bar to speak with others in confidence. The Member Wellness Program has produced CLEs on confronting stigma by asking for help,11 www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tNzprRpTQo. but had we made space for attorneys with these issues to connect? Our goal was to create a true support group without any of the structured skill-building goals of cognitive behavioral therapy or our current Career Guidance Group.
But what to call it? Using words like “depression” or “severe” or “mental illness” all seemed too grim or psychiatric. In brainstorming names for the group, Adely came up with the name Healing Minds,22 www.wsba.org/for-legal-professionals/member-support/wellness/group-sessions#healing. as that is what attendees are attempting to do. It is well documented that healthy individuals can become depressed in law school.33 “The Mental Health Status of Law Students: Implications for College Counselors,” www.researchgate.net/publication/332234681_The_Mental_Health_Status_of_Law_Students_Implications_for_College_Counselors. Add to that the imposter syndrome and lack of mentoring that can characterize the first years of legal practice, along with the array of stressors associated with being a lawyer, and the relevancy of a Healing Minds group becomes clear.
When Adely and I hosted our first group in June we did not anticipate that many of the stories shared would concern the intense challenges attorneys have faced with hypercritical, manipulative, or demanding managers; punishing work demands with little recourse; and, in some cases, firings. Other topics of interest included procrastinating, underperforming, not finding one’s legs in legal practice, and the law around accommodations and GR 33.44 General Rule 33 addresses requests for accommodation by persons with disabilities.
These topics are all fair game. We can show interest and empathy for our members’ anxieties, psychiatric history, and traumatic challenges while also validating stressors like lack of medical leave and accommodations or anxiety over a letter from the WSBA about a grievance. Recently, we invited Gail Bennett from The Vital Lawyer55 www.thevitallawyer.com/. to discuss her educational strategies for supporting struggling attorneys. We have other speakers in mind for future sessions.
The Healing Minds group is being developed at a time when the WSBA is contemplating the formation of a Well-Being Task Force to better understand and improve the well-being of the legal profession in Washington. The work of the task force could include examinations of various segments of the profession: firms large, small, and solo; government; judiciary; law students; and regulatory functions, to name a few. Another consideration is to offer a listening forum for those who have struggled in their practice environments. Perhaps Healing Minds is the first step towards something greater.
What’s Next for Groups?
Our Virtual Career Guidance Group66 www.wsba.org/for-legal-professionals/member-support/wellness/group-sessions. resumed after a two-year hiatus and is now meeting on the first Thursday of every month at 3 p.m. We have all the usual tips for your résumé, informational interviewing skills, applying for jobs online, and identifying the ideal career. In January, we are planning to launch a stress and productivity group to help attorneys stay engaged in their work. This one will be co-led by Adely Ruiz and WSBA Practice Management Advisor Margeaux Green.
The group meets every other Thursday at 1 p.m. Find more information about Healing Minds and other groups at www.wsba.org/wellness.
Virtual Mental Health Support Group
The free group, “Healing Minds: Managing Persistent or Overwhelming Challenges to One’s Well-Being as a Lawyer,” led by Adely Ruiz, LSWAIC, and Dan Crystal, Psy.D, meets every other Thursday from 1-2 p.m. Learn more at www.wsba.org/wellness.
Telehealth is Here!
The Member Wellness Program is now offering hi-def, HIPAA-protected video consultations
using the telehealth portal Doxy.me. Visit www.wsba.org/wellness and click “Book Your Initial Consultation” to schedule time with our licensed providers.
Monthly Virtual Career Guidance Group
This free drop-in group is for legal professionals seeking support in their job search or in other career dilemmas. This group will be led by Dan Crystal, Psy.D, or Adely Ruiz, LSWAIC. They can assist with résumé review, best practices for applying online, informational interviewing, identifying the ideal career, transitioning between practice areas, and other workplace challenges. The group will meet on Zoom on the first Thursday of each month from 3–4 p.m. Sign up at www.wsba.org/wellness.
3. “The Mental Health Status of Law Students: Implications for College Counselors,” www.researchgate.net/publication/332234681_The_Mental_Health_Status_of_Law_Students_Implications_for_College_Counselors.
4. General Rule 33 addresses requests for accommodation by persons with disabilities.