July 01, 2013

Managing Clients in Life-Threatening Litigation

High-conflict legal battles can produce stress so intense that it actually threatens the life of clients.

Demosthenes Lorandos

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High-conflict divorce and custody battles produce an alarming number of false allegations of child sexual abuse by alienating fathers or mothers manipulating their children into false ideas and allegations. Clients experiencing the bewilderment, fear, and anxiety caused by having been accused of doing something so terrible to children they love suffer from what psychologists call ego-dystonic incongruity, a life-threatening form of stress with physical and psychological ramifications. Clients undergoing it can become so overwhelmed by cascades of repeated stress that they cannot sleep, think, or aid counsel.

Stress management professionals (SMPs) can help lawyers to help clients navigate and survive the stress of protracted litigation. SMPs can be experienced mental health professionals at the master’s degree level like social workers, junior-level psychologists, and licensed counselors. When we anticipate that the coming stress of litigation may be life threatening, we use adjunct SMPs working under the direction of the lawyers as part of the legal team.

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