What you resist, persists
The human mind is our fundamental resource
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment
The energy of the mind is the essence of life
There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in
Why attend professional supervision?
Those who work in the legal profession are often exposed to a range of stressors including demanding workloads, tight deadlines, high expectations, public scrutiny and the distress and suffering of others. For those working in the fields of criminal and family law there may also be exposure to graphic details of abuse and violence.The cumulative effects of stress and of repeated exposure to trauma and suffering (vicarious trauma or secondary traumatic stress)have been studied in the legal profession and can be significant contributors to burnout, a common experience in both the medical and legal professions.
Other symptoms can include tiredness, irritability, poor sleep, anxiety, intrusive memories and ruminations, avoidance and compassion fatigue. This can impact upon practice, and can adversely affect relationships with colleagues, clients, partners and families. Maladaptive ways of dealing with stress can lead to further difficulties, with drug and alcohol abuse being a common coping mechanism. Barriers to recognizing or addressing these issues include beliefs that keeping a professional distance will be protective and also that as a professional one is expected to be able to handle it or else be seen as weak. Issues around privacy, stigma and confidentiality are also important barriers.
The importance of addressing well-being in the legal profession has been acknowledged internationally at conferences and in publications. There is an increasing organizational awareness of this issue and in New Zealand the Law Society has introduced the Practicing Well initiative. [Reference] There are a number of strategies that are thought to be able to reduce the impact of exposure to trauma and other work stressors, including the elusive work/life balance and various self-care strategies. One of the most effective tools is regular supervision, a practice that is well recognized in a number of helping professions, but is under utilised in the medical and legal professions.
What is professional supervision?
Supervision involves meeting on a regular basis with a suitably qualified professional. This provides a confidential space in which to explore issues within the work place and the impact that they may be having both professionally and personally. As a forensic psychiatrist, Dr Helen Austin is aware of the cumulative effects of work-related stress and of regular exposure to traumatic material and to other peoples suffering and distress in the medico-legal field. As a medical practitioner she is also well aware of the issue of confidentiality and the expectations that arise as part of being a professional.