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Attorneys help other attorneys in new Hazelden professionals program

January 20, 2011
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Patients will address career issues as part of treatment

The director of Hazelden’s new Legal Professionals Program shows no surprise about data indicating that addiction rates in the legal profession far outpace those in the general population and among other professional groups. Link Christin and two other licensed clinicians in the program are also attorneys in recovery, so they are familiar with the barriers to recovery for a driven, treatment-resistant group of professionals.

“I was a hard-driving trial lawyer, a problem-solver, the person who was asked to intellectualize everything and not to use emotion,” says Christin, who has been in recovery for six years. “One’s reputation and drive creates a lot of isolation, and an unwillingness to reach out for help. What makes someone successful as a lawyer can serve as a block to recovery.”

Hazelden this month launched what Christin believes will be the most comprehensive addiction treatment effort tailored to the legal profession, including attorneys, judges, legal assistants and others. While patients will participate in the same groups and other services available to all Hazelden inpatients, they also will have access to one-on-one sessions with Christin and his two attorney-clinician colleagues, as well as lawyer-only group meetings where professional issues can be discussed openly.

With estimates that the 180-bed Hazelden program has seen only about 50 attorneys a year over the past decade, Christin foresees a practically limitless capacity for this new program. “They’ve been very underrepresented,” he says of lawyers. “I’ve seen so many lawyers who have suffered and have been afraid to reach out for help.”

Christin says he or one of his two colleagues will meet with each attorney in the program at least twice over the course of treatment. “The purpose of that is to discuss their issues as lawyers,” he says. Only one of the three clinicians still practices law.

The weekly lawyers-only group meeting (a coed meeting, unlike the gender-separate meetings in the rest of Hazelden’s program) will offer a rare forum for discussing issues such as whether to self-disclose to colleagues in the firm after treatment.

Lawyers have not been identified as a group needing a tailored treatment approach to the extent that groups such as physicians and pilots have. But Christin says for numerous regulated professions governed by ethical standards and responsibilities to clients/customers, a treatment program that directly acknowledges professional challenges and considerations makes sense.

For more information about Hazelden’s Legal Professionals Program, visit www.hazelden.org/legalprofessionals.

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