Judges Trial Support Services

Senior Clinicians at Shepell have designed a specialized support program (in conjunction with members of the JCP Executive Committee). This program is called the Judges Trial Support Service. This service is in place to support Judges involved with difficult court cases. The judicial work setting is complex and highly demanding and bound by confidential processes and regulatory constraints. Research and anecdotal feedback from Judges and their families reveal that the judicial work environment has an array of workplace stressors that include:

  • An increase in the complexity of cases and an increase in workload
  • An increase in the number of litigants with mental health issues appearing in court
  • An increase in criticisms from the public and media, often taking the form of personal attacks on individual Judges
  • Ongoing challenges for individual Judges to maintain a balance of work, family and personal interests.
It is not uncommon for Canadian Judges to be exposed to cases that involve:
  • Extreme acts of violence or injury or death of children
  • Multiple victims or other gruesome circumstances
  • Crimes that individually may not appear to produce secondary trauma but when experienced in aggregate, could result in compassion fatigue and or burnout.
It is evident that significant levels of stress can be experienced in relation to:
  • Detailed pre-trial examination of evidence and other pre-trial activities
  • Sustained interactions with various parties associated with these crimes
  • Protracted proceedings that result in social and physical isolation from familial and social supports
  • Disrupted routines during difficult or protracted trials
  • Prolonged exposure to graphic and disturbing material
  • Intense media and public scrutiny of the proceedings

JUDGES TRIAL SUPPORT SERVICE FRAMEWORK

All support components would be based on predetermined standards of best practice and would be tailored to the unique personal characteristics, interests and needs of the Judge and his or her family. This support service would unfold within the following phases.
  1. Service Activation and Intake Phase
  2. Pre-trial Support Phase
  3. Trial Support Phase
  4. Post-trial Support Phase

1. SERVICE ACTIVATION AND INTAKE PHASE

The Judges Trial Support Service will be accessed through Shepell’s Care Access Centre.
Process:
  • An individual Judge contacts Shepell’s Care Access after receiving the court case assignment and requests an initial consultation.
  • Care Access Centre gathers basic contact information
  • Care Access Centre assigns a senior clinician to contact the Judge and arrange an initial consultation
  • Shepell senior counsellor contacts the individual Judge and establishes time, date and location for initial face-to-face consultation.

2. PRE-TRIAL SUPPORT PHASE

During the pre-trial support phase, a Shepell counsellor will meet with the individual Judge. The purpose of the meeting would be:
  1. To establish an initial relationship with the Judge and to discuss the unique personal and familial challenges that may be part of the upcoming trial
  2. To provide information on the menu of support services available to the Judge and his or her family
  3. To complete a detailed assessment of current and past stressors, concerns and personal support resources and to administer a standardized stress assessment tool
  4. To initiate the development of a support plan with specific strategies to address identified challenges and concerns.
Development of the Judge’s personal support plan will take into account:
  1. The Judge’s history of exposure to highly stressful cases
  2. The support preferences of the individual Judge and his or her family
  3. The idiosyncrasies of the trial including the anticipated duration
  4. Existing support features available to the Judge and his or her family.
Subsequent to the initial consultation and assessment, a confidential written support plan will be developed by the Shepell counsellor and provided to the Judge for feedback and approval prior to implementation. The support plan will include:
  • A review of key outcomes from the stress assessment
  • A review of key stress management strategies related to outcomes
  • Strategies focused on nutrition, sleep, exercise, social interaction, recreation and relaxation
  • Options to address other psychological, emotional and spiritual support needs that have been identified
  • Specific strategies to respond to issues and needs raised by the Judge’s family.
Once established, the support plan will be used as a template to guide the consultation coaching and support that will be provided. Actual delivery of services would remain flexible in order to address emerging needs or changing priorities.  

3. TRIAL SUPPORT PHASE

  • The service provided during the trial support phase will reflect the mutually agreed upon goals established in the pre-trial planning phase.
  • The Shepell counsellor will meet with the Judge on a regular basis during the trial support phase, to discuss issues of concern and to provide psychological and emotional decompression and other support features as needed.
  • In addition, a Shepell counselor will be available to provide support to the Judge’s family members if that is of interest to the family.
  • The Shepell counsellor will collaborate with the Judge to ensure that potential challenges were identified and proactively addressed.
  • The Shepell counsellor will continue to assess the Judge’s stressors and will provide coaching on strategies for managing the identified stressors.
  • Revisions to the support plan will be undertaken as needed.

4. POST-TRIAL SUPPORT PHASE

During the post-trial support phase, the Shepell counsellor will provide psychological and emotional debriefing as needed.
  • Support to family will be further assessed and provided as needed.
  • Termination of service will be mutually agreed upon.
  • Appropriate follow-up will be initiated at four and six-month intervals as needed.

SHEPELL RESOURCES

The support service will be provided by a select group of Shepell counsellors, specifically trained and supervised to ensure optimal results and satisfaction. The ideal Shepell resource will be a counsellor that:
  • Can establish an effective relationship with clients and generate action plans with well organized and documented, measurable outcomes
  • Can present well to clients from professional backgrounds
  • Has some knowledge in coaching and motivational techniques
  • Has a range of clinical expertise including:
    • clinical assessment and management of depression
    • management of protracted work stress
    • assessment and clinical management of substance use and abuse
    • family counselling
    • lifestyle coaching
  • Has knowledge in the areas of secondary trauma, complicated grief, burnout, compassion fatigue
  • Has sufficient flexibility thereby being able to provide services in locations other than Shepell offices, possibly outside of regular office hours
  • Has sufficient stability within their practice in order to commit to providing continuity of care for periods of six to eighteen months
  • Is willing to work closely with the Shepell clinical supervisor to create the action plan and to review various aspects of service delivery and make changes where necessary.