by Eliza Schafler
Eliza Schafler is an MHAS Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP.
Yesterday at our Behavioral Health-Legal Partnership (BeHeLP) clinic in Highland Park, a therapist called me into her office. She had given me a referral for a family dealing with an eviction, so I expected that she either wanted to discuss the case or had a new case for me. Instead, she told me she just wanted to thank me.
What moved me about her thanks was that she wasn’t talking about the gains for the client and her family, who now have representation and a plan to move forward. She wasn’t talking about the work I had done as a lawyer. Instead, she was focused on her goals as a clinician. She said, “You have made my job easier.” She explained that this child’s mother had been so stressed about the family’s legal problems that she was unable to engage in therapy and work with her son. Now, she is actively supporting her son in therapy, and the child and family are making progress.
This therapist, who had recent experience at another agency, then pointed out what the BeHeLP team has long believed: That most clinicians don’t have the chance to address legal and social issues that get in the way of therapy. When a family is dealing with a stressful legal problem, most clinicians must resign themselves to the fact that they cannot help. However, a therapist in BeHeLP can link the family to a free, bilingual lawyer in the very same building.
I am always happy to hear from clients who feel their needs were met. But it is equally rewarding to hear from a mental health professional that we are helping her do her job.