Dear readers, my magnum opus survey and assessment of the field of therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ) has now been published. You may freely access a pdf of “Therapeutic Jurisprudence: Foundations, Expansion, and Assessment” (University of Miami Law Review) by clicking here.
Here’s my abstract, which introduces the article:
Founded in 1987 by law professors David Wexler and the late Bruce Winick, therapeutic jurisprudence (or “TJ”) is a multidisciplinary school of legal theory and practice that examines the therapeutic and anti-therapeutic properties of law, policy, and legal institutions. In legal events and transactions, TJ inherently favors outcomes that advance human dignity and psychological well-being. Starting with original groundings in mental health and mental disability law, criminal law, and problem-solving courts, and with a geographic focus on the United States, TJ now embraces many aspects of law and policy and presents a strong international orientation.
This article provides a meta-level examination of the field, including its origins, core doctrinal and theoretical foundations, critical reviews, expansion into many areas of law, procedure, and legal institutions, and connections with other modalities of legal theory and practice. Furthermore, it assesses TJ’s standing and considers opportunities and challenges for the field’s expansion and growth. The intended purpose of this article is two-fold: First, to spur discussions within the TJ community about the past, present, and future of the field; and second, to provide a substantive, yet accessible introduction to TJ for those who wish to learn more about it.
Some folks might understandably ask, what do you mean by therapeutic vs. anti-therapeutic legal outcomes? Here’s a quick example: It is therapeutic that we have created laws against sexual harassment. After all, creating liability-avoiding incentives for employers to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and providing workers with legal rights against sexual harassment are good things. However, the ways in which we sometimes apply these laws, which may include wholly inadequate employer responses to reports of sexual harassment, as well as anxiety-producing, perhaps even trauma-generating, litigation, are anti-therapeutic.
TJ’s lens on legal matters helps to yield this kind of analysis, thus shining a necessary light on the ways in which our laws, dispute resolution procedures, and legal institutions advance or undermine psychological health and well-being, individually and collectively.
I hope the piece will be especially useful to:
- Individuals who would like a fulsome introduction to TJ. This includes folks with and without formal legal training.
- Scholars who seek a thorough overview of the field and abundant source listings (contained in the footnotes) for their own research.
- Members of the TJ community, for the purpose of gauging and discussing the field’s past, present, and future.
This article is a long one, clocking out at 90 pages and containing nearly 500 footnotes. Thanks to a very detailed table of contents, however, readers can easily dip into specific sections. It works as a cover-to-cover read and as a piece that can be sifted for individual sub-topics. It works well as a “textbook” on TJ for relevant courses in law and other disciplines.
I discovered TJ some 13 years ago, when my scholarship and advocacy on the legal implications of workplace bullying continually led me to questions about psychology and well-being. Over the years, I’ve become more deeply involved in this wonderful community of scholars, practitioners, judges, and students. I’ve long believed that the TJ community needs a comprehensive survey article of this type, and I hope this will be an educative and scholarly contribution.