Updated: Sep 12, 2019
Being able to successfully recommending emotional support to your clients without insulting them or having them feel like something is wrong with them is good for business. As a Family Lawyer you are always doing your very best to provide solid legal advice for you clients. Indisputably you are committed to providing your clients with your utmost legal support and at the same time you are also aware that your clients are needing more than purely legal advice; they are requiring emotional guidance as well.
I'm an Overpriced and Under-Qualified Therapist
Recently I had coffee with a Family Lawyer in North York at the Starbuck Reserve located in the Shops of Don Mills, I love this location because it makes me feel like a cool millennial Yet according to my 10 year l 'm not cool and I'm definitely not a millennial.
We had comfortable window seat and after about 20 minutes into our coffee meeting she said, “I care about my clients, I really do; it's just that I’m an overpriced and under-qualified therapist”. I appreciated her candid statement, mainly because I could already see the passion she had for her clients. It's people like her that are reshaping the stereotype of the old school style of litigious lawyering; she really wanted to help her clients in a more meaningful way.
I’ve got to tell you how much I appreciated hearing her say this for two reasons.
1) She knows her expertise is in Family Law not therapy.
2) Legal services are simply more costly than therapy or coaching. I truly appreciated her recognizing that this is not money well spent by her clients.
I use to have a very jaded view of Family Lawyers
I'm a little embarrassed to admit that earlier in my practice I had a very jaded view of Family Lawyers. Yes, I had my stereotype of lawyers. I didn’t believe lawyers cared about their client's emotional well-being. Because, in essence, it's true that you can make a whole lot more money the more adversarial your client file is. Don’t get me wrong I know those types of lawyers still exist, yet I’m hearing over and over again that there is another kind of well-meaning compassionate Family Lawyer. I can’t thank you enough for breaking-down this bias’ of mine.
Yet now, I can't ignore that as much as you care, your kindness and compassion is also part of the problem. So how can I support you to stop offering the kind of emotional support to your clients that a coach or therapist should be doing. It’s simply too expensive for them and although well-intended your advice may not be help them in the long run.
5-Steps to Suggesting a Divorce Recovery Expert
I’ve created an easy 5-step process teaching you how to support your client moving over to a Divorce Professional in the area of mental health.
Refer to their emotional struggles as divorce stress or extreme divorce stress. This is easy to relate to and it doesn't feel like you are saying they are unstable or unwell. Everyone has stress and yes their stress is very heightened right now.
The first step is to Identify their divorce stress
It's very important for you to understand that people living with ongoing stress are at a greater risk of mental illness. Without support they are at a much higher risk of experiencing increased anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and physical ailments such as sleep disorders, ulcers, stomach pains and much more.
It may be important to educate your client on the dangers of undergoing this amount of stress for an extended period of time. Too much stress or chronic stress is extremely unhealthy and dangerous (emotionally and physically). You want your clients to stay healthy but you are worried that if they don’t get extra support their health will begin to decline.
Highly successful people seek Divorce Recovery Coaching; In fact, most of my clients are Type A, high functioning professionals, yet they are simply undergoing a very stressful period and don't have the know-how on how to navigate these strong emotions. Many people don't know that healing through a separation and divorce is a learned-skill.
Suggesting a coach is a nice alternative as this takes away the unfortunate stigma of a therapist or counsellor.
This is normal. Be respectful and normalize their experience. The way in which your client feels and the way he/she is handling their emotional stress is normal, in fact it's extremely common. Remind them that anyone going through a situation like theirs would find it very hard.
And it is also normal and healthy to seek out extra support, it's just too stressful and complicated to try and do it on their own.
Reaching out for support is normal, healthy and proactive
Offer new hope, everyone needs hope. Offering new hope must be and feel realistic for your client.
Simple things like letting them know there is support to help them feel better and they don't have to continue feeling so overwhelmed.
Sometimes the hope is letting them know that they don't have to do this all alone and that they can have someone else on their team that understands and will help them.
Recommend someone that you believe could best support your client. Connecting your client to the right Divorce Professional is one of the greatest gift you can provide him or her. Your client is relying on you to know the best people. You are the expert and they are wanting your guidance. Your client will know you have their best interest at heart. They will respect you and recommend others to you.
Before starting this process please do your research and choose someone who specializes in divorce, because as you know divorce is unique; divorce healing is unique in the mental health realm, just as Family Law is unique in law.
Acknowledge you are not their best option, as much as you want to help because I know you do, be honest that you are not their best option. You are not trained in supporting people through the emotional aspect of their divorce; and yes, let them know it will cost them too much and you both know how expensive divorce is already. Let your client know that going to a Divorce Recovery Coach or Therapist that specializes in divorce will save them a lot of money is the long run and you highly recommend it.
Bringing this all together...
This is an example of what an entire conversation might look like.
"You've told me several times that you are feeling overwhelmed and scared.
Given all that you have said, I can completely understand why you feel this way.
I believe you could really benefit from having extra support - this level of stress is not healthy for you and your family.
I know of someone that I would like you to speak with she is a Divorce Recovery Coach, and she specializes in helping people heal past their divorce, she's excellent and I believe she could help you so much (this is where you introduce them to someone you trust can help)
I want to help but in the area of emotional support it's not your money well spent. I'm going to help you the best I can legally and I'm going to help you find the right fit to help you better with the stress you are undertaking.
Keeping it Simple!
Identify their stress
Normalize stress and seeking help
Offer some hope
Suggest a vetted divorce professional in the area of mental health
Acknowledge you are not their best option
I hope this post has helped simplify the process of recommending a Mental Health professional to your client and I'm happy to chat with you further to see if I'm the right fit for any of your clients. firstname.lastname@example.org