This is where the idea of reverse therapy comes in.

Reverse therapy applies the psychological theories which inform rehabilitation, but at the prehabilitation stage.

The stresses that we experience as lawyers (or whatever) are not simply physical, or caused by excessive workloads or long hours.

They are also intrapersonal and interpersonal.

The way that we cope with stresses is significantly determined by the meaning that we attribute to them and by those whose demands we are attempting to meet.

Much will depend on the way that we have coped with similar requirements in the past.

The demands placed on a young assistant solicitor by their supervisor or client may echo the expectations of university professors, school teachers, or a parent.

Expectations of oneself generally originate from those of significant others.

A comprehensive psychological theory integrating many psychotherapeutic approaches over recent years has been formulated by Peter Fonagy and others: ‘mentalising’.

We’ll look at this in more detail in a while. For the time being, I’ll use an overview proposed by David Goldberg and Eric Plakun, the ‘Y model’ [1]. 

Recognising that there has been much misunderstanding and conflict between different models of psychotherapy, Goldberg and Plakun offer a simplified model to represent core components of most widely recognised psychotherapies on the stem of the Y and the specific components of psychodynamic psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) on the two arms of the Y.

The model was developed specifically for students of psychotherapy to clarify confusions between differing therapeutic approaches.


Happy lawyers

The model is particularly helpful when we think about wellbeing in the legal profession and can help us in considering complimentary rather than contradictory ways of addressing well-being: to make lawyers happier.

On the stem of the Y the core goals for psychotherapy are defined, tasks are clarified for therapist and patient, and collaboration occurs. A bond is established and maintained.

On the psychodynamic branch of the Y the therapist’s approach is receptive, reflective and non-directive.

They will act as a guide and look for unconscious meanings, focusing on affect, avoidance, the therapeutic relationship and self-awareness.

The patient will lead with a non-directed flow of thoughts and feelings.

On the CBT branch of the Y therapist will be active and directive and takes the role of teacher.

They will look for maladaptive cognitions and focus on these.

The patient will follow the therapist’s instructions, do home-work and actively explore cognitions.

The model is helpful as an illustration of how psychotherapy works – in rehab.

Prehab involves thinking about mental health beforehand, away from the heat of battle.

As lawyers we can face many difficult situations: a city associate pulling another all-nighter; an overloaded conveyancer keeping too many plates spinning; a high street partner with pressures from the bank; a family barrister dealing with another tragic children case; or a coroner struggling to cope with gore and others’ grief. 

Prehab can help us prepare for the emotional demands life throws our way.

It can also help us to think of our own characteristics as individual lawyers.

In some part we live up to expectations and stereotypes. 

We’ll now move on to thinking about legal archetypes and look at both sides of a coin … 



[1] Goldberg, D. A. & Plakun, E. M. (2013). Teaching Psychodynamic Psychotherapy with the Y Model, Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, 41, 111-126.


(This is an edited excerpt from my book A Lawyer’s Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress published by ARK Group in 2015.)

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