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The Doctor will see you now: tackling judicial stress with telepsychology

September 3, 2020

The coronavirus continues to cause massive disruption for the courts, forcing change at a speed previously unseen in the judicial system. In addition to the normal stressors such as high profile cases and vicarious trauma that leaves judges experiencing greater psychological distress than lawyers or the general public, the global pandemic has brought new stressors. Teleworking can result in difficulty in establishing work/life balance and feelings of isolation that can be worsened by continuing social distancing requirements. As COVID-19 impacts state budgets, some courts are already seeing furloughs and reduced hours, this results in increased workloads and stress as judicial staff try to ensure justice is carried out with fewer resources. Judges and court personnel may experience stress on the home front as family members find themselves unemployed or ill. Increased tension from time spent in close quarters at home and concerns with the safety and education of both adults and minor children exacerbate the issue.

As 2020 presents one hurdle after another, members of the judicial branch or a member of their family may need someone to talk to but are reluctant or unable to seek counseling in person. This is where telepsychology comes in. The American Psychiatric Association explains telepsychology as a “process of providing health care from a distance through technology, often using videoconferencing.” Researchers found all age groups report good experiences with telepsychology. The approach proves especially successful with PTSD, depression, and ADHD. The American Psychology Association (APA) supports the practice, stating the use of phone, webcam, email, or text messages at any hour of the day, from wherever the person may be, is an important service. The APA notes telepsychology has been successfully used by the military for years, but acknowledges counseling via email or text may not work for everyone. For those who try telepsychology, there are several platforms, offering access to thousands of doctors. The New York Times’s WireCutter and VeryWell both provide comparisons of the teletherapy services to help identify the correct platform for the individual’s needs.

For more on supporting judicial system mental health see The Judicial Family Institute,  the ABA’s Coping with Covid-19: A Judicial Wellness Check-up webinar, September 9, 2020, 11:15 AM - 12:15 PM Central Time, and  Trauma and Its Implication for Justice Systems.

Have you tried telepsychology? Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest and share your experiences!

For more information, contact Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164.