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Posts Tagged ‘eating disorders’

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 5.21.10 PMIt was my pleasure to sit down a couple weeks ago with Megan Hawksworth, of the Mastering Counseling podcast, and talk about being a therapist.  I always enjoy a chance to compare notes with another person in my field (Megan is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) and talk shop – and Megan was a terrific host.  Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 5.31.45 PM

Our topic was the whole notion of being a “specialist” as a therapist, which is obviously relevant to my practice, since I’m typically considered “the lawyer’s therapist.”  It’s true that I used to be a biglaw corporate associate and have written books about law and mental health and treat a great many lawyers in my private practice.  However, it’s also worth noting that I originally started out as a “gay therapist” working with HIV+ gay men in a hospital setting and then ran a large, diverse private practice as a “downtown therapist” first in Battery Park City and then in neighboring Tribeca, working mostly with area residents and folks in creative fields.  So if I’m a specialist, I’ve had a few specialties.

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 5.37.00 PMThe larger issue we chewed on is that every therapist, by necessity, is a generalist – it comes with the territory.  People are complicated, and diverse, and labels, while useful in some contexts, tend to blur important distinctions in others.  We’re all a lot like everyone else – and completely unique, as well.

Anyway, it’s all super-interesting grist for the mill and led to a lively discussion.  Here’s a link to the podcast.  The MastersinCounseling.org  blog, authored by Dr. Barbara LoFrisco (another therapist) is also well worth checking out.

I would be more than happy to talk about psychotherapy forever (it’s my very favorite subject), and it’s always a pleasure to sit down with a colleague and bounce ideas off one another.  This was an especially fun interview.

Don’t get me wrong – you know I love lawyers.  But everyone likes to talk to a therapist, right?  Apparently, I’m no exception.

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Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls

in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

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The People’s Therapist received an interesting and important letter a few weeks ago from a 3L (I’ve redacted it and altered some details to preserve anonymity):

Mr. Meyerhofer,

I have a question (or perhaps a topic suggestion for a post, as I’m sure many students are wondering about this) about the character and fitness part of the NY bar application.

I have seen a therapist several times over the years for issues relating to depression, eating disorders, and self-injury. On the NY bar application it asks whether you have any psychological issues that might effect your ability to perform as a lawyer. I have absolutely no idea whether I’m required to disclose my psychological treatment history, or if I do, how much of it. Is the determination based on what I personally think, or is it a reasonable person standard?

As I’ve had to go to the ER several times over the years, objectively I could see how someone could interpret that as something that could affect my performance. However, I personally don’t think that it does.

I don’t really know who I could ask about this, as I don’t really want my school administrators to know about my issues. Any information you might have would be much appreciated. Thank you so much for your help!

Sincerely,

“Stumped in Syracuse”

To begin with, here is a passage from a pamphlet, entitled “Are you fit to be a Lawyer,” published by the New York State Lawyer Assistance Trust:

Neither receiving treatment for alcoholism, drug addiction or mental health concerns, nor the status of being a recovering alcoholic or recovering addict are grounds for denial of admission to the bar.

In New York, the focus of the inquiry is on whether chemical abuse or addiction or a mental health condition impairs the applicant’s current ability to practice law.

The bar application asks whether the applicant has “any mental or emotional condition or substance abuse problem that could adversely affect” the “capability to practice law”, and whether the applicant is “currently using any illegal drugs.”

While honesty in disclosing past conduct (for example, arrests and convictions) is essential, disclosure of past treatment is not required. No questions are asked about past treatment. The Committees encourage law students who are experiencing drug, alcohol or other addiction or mental health issues to address those issues as soon as possible, regardless of when the student plans to seek admission to the bar.

The bottom line seems clear – there’s no legal duty for Stumped in Syracuse to disclose his past history of treatment on his bar application unless his mental illness currently impairs his ability to practice law. Under this standard, it would require a severe mental health condition to trigger this duty, and the majority of situations involving mental illness – certainly the ones described in Stumped in Syracuse’s letter – would not require disclosure.

The real issue here – as Stumped suggests – is stigma. Stumped, like any rational person, is afraid someone will find out about his condition and jump to the unfair assumption that he is unfit for his job. That would be a disaster for anyone interested in preserving his professional reputation. For Stumped, the ignorance surrounding mental illness may pose a greater threat than the illness itself.

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