New book from ABA helps legal professionals recognize and rebound from depression

Law students and lawyers report having a significantly higher rate of depression than the general population. When left untreated, depression can affect lawyers and their clients, families, friends and colleagues. In addition to the effects of mental health conditions on a lawyer’s personal life, depression can lead to substantial disciplinary issues that threaten an attorney’s ability to practice law. Unfortunately, for many struggling with the burden of depression, it is only when they reach their breaking point, or encounter unavoidable professional consequences, that they reach out for assistance.

A new book published by the American Bar Association, “The Full Weight of the Law: How Legal Professionals Can Recognize and Rebound from Depression,” is written to help the legal professional recognize the symptoms of depression before they reach that breaking point. Many negative consequences could be avoided if the problems that cause depression in a lawyer’s life and career are resolved early.

Authors Shawn Healy, Ph.D., and Jeffrey Fortgang, Ph.D., work directly with lawyers, law students and judges who are suffering from depression. In this book, they offer hope through practical, realistic recommendations that help lawyers and the people who care about them understand the causes and symptoms of depression, various forms of treatment and how to help a lawyer who may suffer from depression.

Topics covered in the 200-page book include:

• Causes of depression
• Diagnosing depression: What it is and what it isn’t
• Medical and psychological treatments for the depressed lawyer
• Depression versus burnout versus vicarious traumatization
• Tips for managing common triggers
• Resilience and depression

Fortgang graduated Yale in 1971 and completed his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Adelphi University’s Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies in 1980. Licensed as both a psychologist and alcohol/drug counselor, he has held positions and directed clinical programs at several Boston-area hospitals and clinics, and served as an instructor in psychology in the Department of Psychiatry of Harvard Medical School. Since 1998, he has divided his time between private practice and Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, the Massachusetts lawyer assistance program.

Healy received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 2006 from Suffolk University in Boston, where he focused most of his research on conflict resolution. During graduate school, Healy taught a wide variety of undergraduate psychology courses at several colleges in the greater Boston area. Since 2014, he has worked full time at Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, the Massachusetts lawyer assistance program, while also dedicating as much time as possible to playing with his small children.