How Lawyers Can Transform Depression From a Break-Down to a Break-Through

Editor’s Note:  Dr. Lara Honos-Webb is a clinical psychologist and author of the books Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your Pain Can Heal Your Life and The Gift of ADHD. She practices in Walnut Creek, California. You can visit her website at

Why are lawyers so depressed these days? The rates of depression and substance abuse problems are skyrocketing according to recent media reports and research. This article will show you how depression can be seen as a break-down in the service of offering you an opportunity for a break-through. If depression offers corrective feedback to lawyers, what might it be telling you?

We only reflect on those things that break down in our life. For example, if life is going along smoothly you won’t spend time thinking about the meaning of life. You tend to think deeply about life when something is not working. When we identify a problem, we begin to reflect on what caused the problem and how to fix the problem. If you are disconnected from your deepest feelings and impulses you may still manage to get through life without realizing that your life is off track.

One of the defining features of depression is that it results in impairment in social and professional functioning. You may feel blue, begin to lose interest in some aspects of your life, but this will not be diagnosed as depression unless a marked impairment in day-to-day functioning is evident. It is this aspect of depression – – by definition an impairment – – that seems on the face of it most difficult to reconcile with the idea that depression is a gift.

But if you begin to open to the possibility that there was something fundamentally wrong with your level of functioning before your depression, only then does the idea of depression as a gift begin to make sense. A bread-down can become a gift when it is in the service of increasing reflection on your life which will lead to ask the fundamentally important questions:

      • What is wrong with my life?
      • What can I do to correct the problem?


When you listen to your depression, you can hear your life.

What do lawyers need to hear to heal their lives? One message might be that money is no substitute for meaning. Many lawyers chose the profession as a path toward material success. Great wealth offers opportunities for great joy and liberation from financial stressors. Depression may be telling you, “Now you’ve got the money, time to go for the meaning.” The problem with the rat race is that no one tells us where the finish line is. Depression may be telling you “nothing is missing, it’s time to enjoy my wealth.”

Other lawyers may find their financial success to be the proverbial “golden handcuffs.” You may have created a lifestyle that forces you to work around the clock to sustain it. In this case depression may be telling you to find some balance. Depression may force you to gain perspective. If your professional life becomes impaired, you may be forced to see that it might be better to scale back your spending so you can put more “life” in your lifestyle.

Many lawyers may find themselves depressed simply because they are far outside of their “sweet spot.” Your sweet spot is that place where your passion meets your purpose. The quickest way to heal your life and heal your depression, is to find your sweet spot and start moving toward it. A friend of mine learned she lived medicine after she graduated from Harvard Law School. She worked as a lawyer for the American Medical Association. Sometimes lawyers feel that by working with the underprivileged they are fulfilling their purpose. Don’t forget to put the “sweet” back in the sweet spot. This means you have to love what you do and do it because it enlivens you. If your work is a constant strain, it’s a signal that even if it’s a noble job – – it might not be for you. Depression is a call to break-through to a life of both passion and purpose. Take it as a signal you have some soul-searching to do to get closer to your sweet spot.

For more tips and tools about depression, visit Sign up for Dr. Lara Honos-Webb’s free newsletter at Learn how to translate your pain into your purpose with individual sessions http://www.visionarysoul/sessions.html.

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