How to Know When to Add Legal Help to Your Therapy Sessions
Sometimes, therapy alone won’t help you achieve your goals.
Utilizing a therapist throughout your life or during extremely stressful times in your life is no longer seen as a sign of weakness but rather as strength. Numerous celebrities have spoken out about how seeing a therapist helps them maintain a sense of peace, balance; and navigate some of life’s biggest stressors from divorce, to custody battles, and even childhood trauma.
And while therapy can help you establish goals and hold you accountable to achieving them, sometimes you might need an additional support, like an attorney, to make those goals a reality.
Take the case of Lindsay* for example: Lindsay is a divorced, single mother of her two-year-old daughter. Lindsay works part-time as a receptionist for a local doctor’s office and is currently fighting with her homeowner’s insurance company after they denied an insurance claim she submitted for damage her home sustained when her upstairs neighbor’s bathroom flooded.
Lindsay has been working with a therapist for the past three months on learning how to handle feelings of stress that arise from her work, co-parenting with her ex-spouse, and the difficult relationship she has with her upstairs neighbors. Lindsay is able to quickly recognize her negative thinking about a situation and replace those negative thoughts, yet her therapist has no way of helping her navigate the insurance system or advocate on her behalf to the insurance company.
This is when having an attorney who works with home insurance claims can be an added component to Lindsay’s therapy that will help her completely resolve her issue. Once Lindsay begins working with an attorney who is helping her with her claim, she is able to be compensated for the damage her home sustained and make the necessary repairs.
So, how did Lindsay know when it was time to seek the additional help of attorney while working with her therapist?
The issue is outside of the therapist’s scope of practice
You wouldn’t go to a dentist for a massage, just like you wouldn’t get your teeth cleaned by your car mechanic.
Therapists most often practice within a specific field or area which they are passionate about and have received additional training. If a therapist doesn’t have training or much experience with your presenting concern, it’s best practice for that therapist to refer you to someone who does.
So when you go to a therapist because you’re feeling stress over a concern like child custody, a home owner’s insurance claim, or another area requiring legal expertise, the therapist will help you navigate the feelings, thoughts, and emotions that arise because of this issue, yet they won’t be able to help change your custody arrangement or advocate on your behalf to the insurance company.
It’s simply outside their scope of practice
You’ve Been Arrested
Therapists provide a safe, non-judgmental space that is entirely yours to use. And life doesn’t stop just because you’re in therapy working on yourself.
Say you’ve been working with your therapist for a while now, really trying to overcome a history of childhood trauma. You’ve identified that a major way you cope with your feelings of low self-worth and painful memories is by drinking. And one night after drinking too much you decide to drive yourself home instead of calling an Uber or Lyft.
On the way home you’re pulled over by a police office, one thing leads to another, and now you’ve got a DUI charge.
While your therapist will absolutely be able to support you during this time, you are going to need an attorney in addition to your therapist to help you navigate the court system. Your therapist and attorney may even collaborate together for when your attorney presents your case to the judge.
You Need Legal Advice on Something
This one should come as no surprise.
Your therapist will be able to walk you through the person pros and cons of decision, like how you’ll feel if you’ll pursue legal action, what you’ll do to finance using an attorney, etc. but ONLY an attorney can give you solid legal advice.
This kind of goes hand in hand with the scope of practice mentioned earlier. It might also be another opportunity for your attorney and therapist to consult on your case and help devise a plan. As is often the case with adjusting custody arrangements, with the appropriate releases of information, therapists can give a short summary to the attorney of what the client self-reported about the current custody arrangement and why it would be beneficial if it were changed.
*Lindsey is a fictional character
This guest blog was provided by Hayley Kirchoff, LMHC, NCC. If you or someone you know is looking for a therapist, reach out to Hayley to schedule a free, 30 minute phone conversation.