Sustaining Well-Being in Public Defense (6 week online course 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. This course will 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. Together, we will explore research-based practices to sustain well-being and mitigate the traumatic impacts of public defense work. Drawing from yoga, mindfulness, gratitude practices–and the individual interests of the participants in the class– we will explore self-care techniques and how to include them in our demanding schedules. Using self-assessments, structured goal setting and reflection, participants will develop individualized strategies to sustain well-being while working in public defense.

Zen and the Art of Public Defender Maintenance. (1-3 hours).

As public defenders we are exposed to intense trauma, and we often find ourselves in situations that challenge our boundaries and commitment to self-care and well-being. This workshop reviews studies of public defenders and the secondary traumatic impact of public defense work for attorneys, investigators and all those who work in indigent defense. The workshop offers tools to support well-being, drawing from yoga, mindfulness/meditation and gratitude practices, as part of a larger conversation about burnout, self-care and sustaining motivation for public defense work. A version of this workshop has been presented at public defender training programs in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin County, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara counties in California; as well as at: Gideon’s Promise in Atlanta, GA; Harvard Law School Celebration 65; and the Basic Trial Skills Institute of the California Public Defenders Association; as well as in public defender training programs in Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky and Montana.

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. We include 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.