Time to self-reflect?

  • September 07, 2021

Dear Advy,

I am wondering how you know when an individual needs to reach out for help on mental health issues? With a busy practice to contend with, I barely find a moment to take a breath, let alone taking a pulse on my mental state. I have to admit that I am leery of reaching out to anyone – I may just be blowing things out of proportion during a stressful time. That being said, I don’t want to get to a place where I am suddenly unable to do my work. Are there any self-assessment tools out there that you would recommend?

Time to self-reflect?

Dear Time to self-reflect,

I have a one-word answer to your first question: 


Maybe I could be a little more helpful than that. Let’s start by reframing what it means to enlist the help of a therapist, counsellor, psychologist, or other helping professional. 

Dentists achieved something brilliant when they reframed a dental appointment from “Painful thing you do only when your tooth needs to get yanked out” to “Preventative check-up you get to make sure you never need any serious dental work - Oh and you get a free toothbrush!” Thanks to that reframing, there are many people under the age of 40 who have never had any cavities in their lifetimes. Going to the dentist isn’t necessarily pleasant, but it’s not a big deal. You make your appointment, get your cleaning and check-up and then probably don’t think about it. 

Let’s extend that out a little to something you may be even more familiar with. Lawyers don’t tell clients to wait until they are dying to get their Wills done. Instead, they often remind clients when they’re drafting their Wills to remember that they hope nobody reads this thing for decades after the client has lived a long, happy, healthy life. Wills, shareholder agreements, pre-nuptial contracts and other legal tools are among many examples of legal work for clients to prevent a crisis, not fixing one that has already happened. If you think about it, the kindest words a lawyer can say to most clients are “Let’s never talk again.” 

Good health doesn’t end at your gums. Going to see a mental health professional can and should be the cognitive equivalent of flossing or writing a Power of Attorney in that you need never ask, “Is it bad enough that I need this?” You’re going to see them to make sure there never is a crisis. 

That applies to anyone, but it is especially true for lawyers. Practicing law requires that you write things, that you make phone calls, that you talk to your co-workers, but above all else, it requires thinking. Your brain is the factory floor of your business. Nothing gets done if that squishy grey thing inside your head isn’t functioning properly. So, even if you only look at it from an economic perspective, it pays enormous dividends to get outside help for preventative maintenance for the machinery that drives your business. 

Honestly, don’t worry about whether you are blowing things out of proportion. If you’re wondering if you are, who could help you answer that? If you answered, “A trained counsellor could.” you are correct! 

This leads to the answer to your second question. The very best source of self-assessment tools would be a skilled professional. There are any number of assessment tools out there, such as the Beck Depression Inventory, but even the most reliable of self-assessments have limited utility if you don’t have someone helping you to figure out what to do with them. When you field a call from a potential client that starts with “I’ve been representing myself using the information I found on the internet...” you probably get a queasy feeling in your stomach. Yes, you can use a self-assessment tool, but you are better off doing that while working with a trained professional, even if you only have one appointment where you discuss how to use self-assessment tools. 

The good news is that with this article, you’ll find a link to the CBA’s Well-Being website that tells you how to get help, anonymously if you like, from one of those trained professionals wherever you are. 

Be well,