Archie Zariski, Professor of Legal Studies, Athabasca University Canada, writes…

The prospect of attending the 2015 International Academy of Law and Mental Health Congress in delightful Vienna tempted me to propose a paper exploring connections between Freudian psychoanalysis and therapeutic jurisprudence. It also afforded an opportunity to continue my reflections on the role of sympathy and empathy in the work of legal actors. Little did I know at the time that the conference would be held at Sigmund Freud University!

Through my research I found that sympathy and empathy are accepted elements of psychoanalytic technique and that some of the therapeutic benefits of analysis can be achieved through the use of recommended practices of therapeutic jurisprudence.

In general terms, psychoanalysis is the process of revealing a persons’ faulty and inappropriate mental connections between people, ideas, and emotions.

If an analytical stance is taken by practitioners of therapeutic jurisprudence they will be alert to such mental errors and possibly able to counteract them.

For example, providing a clear and explicit delineation of roles within a legal process, and treating the person before the law as a unique individual may help to break down mistaken unconscious mental identifications and associations which impede litigants’ understanding of, and appropriate response to the legal environment.

Further, a judge or lawyer who is aware of such mental processes will be better equipped to identify individuals with serious mental problems needing treatment, or those who are currently unfit to take part in the proceedings.

My paper appeared to be well received, and thankfully I received no searching questions on Freudian theory from those much more qualified than I.

The paper will be published in the forthcoming first issue of the new International Journal of Therapeutic Jurisprudence.  The pre-publication version can be found here.

I am now enticed by the prospect of the 2017 International Academy of Law and Mental Health Congress in the equally attractive city of Prague to give a paper on the lessons for therapeutic jurisprudence which may flow from the writing of one its favorite sons – Franz Kafka. Wish me luck!



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