Wendy Lenk McClary, Ph.D., is a 2022 graduate of the PhD Program in Marriage and Family Therapy at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Lucille Byno, PhD, Committee Chair
  • Denzel Jones, PhD, Committee Member
  • Althea Lloyd, JD, Committee Member


alternative dispute resolution, attorney, attorney safety, burnout, CFT, collaborative divorce, compassion fatigue, custody, divorce, family law, family therapist, high-stress jobs, Husserl, lawyer, mediation, MFT, neglect, parenting, partner abuse, phenomenological, secondary stress, secondary trauma, semi-structured interview, stigma, vicarious

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Attorneys who specialize in family practice may experience significant rates of mood disorders and substance reliance. Law schools typically do not provide supportive coursework or mentoring to help students learn to manage their feelings and those of crisis-impacted clients. Lawyers may well consider that understanding emotional needs and providing emotional support does not fall within their codes of practice. Societal stigma may prevent family attorneys and their clients from seeking therapy. Small-town attorneys may be particularly vulnerable to professional stress and safety concerns. The purpose of this study was to explore and understand the lived experiences of family attorneys practicing in small towns. Semi-structured interviews of five family attorneys practicing in small towns in New England revealed professional and personal challenges related to compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and burnout, as well as safety concerns for themselves, their associates, and their families. Some reported resistance to therapy due to stigma or unfamiliarity with the process, though all validated therapy as a tool for distressed clients. Future research could identify ways in which couple/family therapists and family attorneys can collaborate to effectively and comprehensively meet the needs of clients who are experiencing challenging life transitions, and to support the ongoing emotional health needs of lawyers.


Wendy Lenk McClary

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0002-7078-7983