Sustaining Well-Being in Public Defense (8 week online course offered by NAPD) and Supporting Well-Being in Public Defense (6 week online course for trainers and leaders offered by NAPD)

Working in public defense has very real impacts on our well-being. We must maintain our physical and mental health in order to provide high quality and client-centered representation to the people we represent. However, we face the constant obstacles of working within under-resourced agencies, being exposed to intense trauma, and casework demands that often challenge our boundaries and commitment to self-care. These courses provide an informed and supportive conversation about secondary trauma, moral injury, burnout, self-care, and sustaining motivation to continue this work. This course is for attorneys, investigators and all those who work in indigent defense. 

Sustaining Well-Being in Public Defense. (1-3 hours).

Sustaining and Supporting the well-being of public defenders enables us to provide the high quality representation that our clients deserve, and increase access to justice. This class examines the challenges and obstacles to sustaining and supporting well-being and offers tools and strategies at the individual, office and system levels. A version of this workshop has been presented at public defender training programs throughout California, as well as at: Gideon’s Promise in Atlanta, GA; Harvard Law School Celebration 65; and in public defender training programs in Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky and Montana.

Well Being as Competency and Access to Justice (1 hour)

Maintaining our well-being is foundational to being able to do public defense work, and is an indispensable part of our ethical duty of competence. Using the ABA’s broad definition of well-being across the six dimensions (emotional, intellectual, occupational, physical, spiritual and social), we will discuss the connection between wellness and high performance. We will review studies of public defenders and the secondary traumatic impact of public defense work, including struggles with mental health and substance use. Concrete strategies will be offered to support well being at the individual, office and system levels. Working within a public defense culture and community that supports well-being is foundational to providing access to justice through strong representation.

Mindfulness Practices for Reducing Stress Response in Public Defense (1 hour)

af60bee5-8094-46ac-9979-ce018572310d-e1570414344855.jpegThis interactive workshop gives an overview of the body’s stress response and relaxation response, and offers a sampling of mindfulness and meditation practices. Specific instruction is offered in using breathing techniques that can be used to reduce stress response—like right before a closing argument or challenging sentencing hearing.

Anxiety, Imposter Syndrome and Self-Doubt in Public Defense (1 hour)

This workshop reviews characteristics of anxiety and imposter syndrome, and physiology of stress response, particularly for public defenders who must engage in frequent public speaking. The workshop includes simple breathing/mindfulness exercises and other strategies for managing anxiety and imposter syndrome in this work.

Setting Time Boundaries and Working Efficiently in Public Defense (1 hour)

This workshop reviews the importance of setting boundaries for public defenders, who must juggle overwhelming caseloads with life altering consequences. often within a culture that promotes working nonstop. We talk about why you can’t work 24/7 and sustain this work, and how to work efficiently within reasonable time parameters.

Gratitude Practices for Public Defense (1 hour)


This interactive workshop reviews the research on the benefits of gratitude practices, and offers several gratitude exercises to try. The practices include general habits (like keeping a gratitude journal) and some exercises created specifically for public defense.

How to Build a Culture of Wellness: A Workshop for Public Defender Leaders and Managers (1-2 hours)

This workshop reviews research and recommendations for workplace culture that promotes wellbeing and strives to avoid unintentionally contributing to moral injury. We will discuss examples and models within PD offices that offer programs like Sabbatical, structured mentorship, and reliable coverage for people to take vacation and leave. We also talk about how to minimize expectations of 24/7 availability and support healthy boundaries.

Support Well Being in Training, Supervising, Mentorship and Coaching (1 hour)

This workshop draws from experiences of incorporating awareness and support for well being designing training, coaching and mentoring programs in a wide variety of public defense settings (different sized offices, individual coaching and mentoring, national programs).

Caregiving for Yourself and Others While Working in Public Defense (1 hour)

Many of us begin to take on the most complex cases and/or supervision responsibilities at the same time that our roles increase as caregivers of children, foster children, parents, relatives or others. This workshop explores practices of self care and boundaries specific to balancing work and caregiving.

The times are generally flexible, longer times allow for more discussion and interactive exercises.