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Mitchell Hamline conference focuses on well-being, secondary trauma for lawyers


Mitchell Hamline law school is hosting a conference called “Wellbeing In Law: Great in Theory, Better in Practice” to mark the 50th anniversary of its clinical education program.


Licensed therapists Anusha Ramaswami and Shosona Alexander-Daniels spoke at the event. Ramaswami will present a talk on the use of music and movement to reduce stress, and Alexander-Daniels will discuss reducing anxiety with improv.


Both Ramaswami and Alexander-Daniels are part of the radical mental health provider Creative Kuponya. The organization was founded by two therapists who advocate against racial disparities and misdiagnoses in mental health. Director of Operations and Wellness Brittane Geleske says Creative Kuponya takes a holistic approach to therapy involving creativity and self expression. It’s also an insurance-free organization.


“In order to take health insurance, you have to assign a diagnosis to somebody,” explained Geleske. “And with Creative Kuponya, we don't want to do that because misdiagnosis is high. And misdiagnosis for Black and brown bodies is exponentially high.”


Statistically, Black people are more likely to be misdiagnosed with more severe and less treatable illnesses. As a result they tend to fare worse in treatment.


Geleske says by removing the barrier of health insurance, Creative Kuponya is able to serve groups that are traditionally marginalized in mental health care, including the incarcerated.


“Three of our largest partners specifically work with folks who have been justice impacted,” said Geleske. “And so something that we have experienced in those partnerships is that in order for these humans to be whole and continue on their healing journey, we can't just offer employment, we have to also offer holistic wellness support.”


Geleske says an influx of Black and Brown lawyers came to them looking for mental health support following the murder of George Floyd. They realized that BIPOC lawyers were being impacted by the trauma of their clients.


“You can actually experience it if you're working with someone else's PTSD. It's so deeply connected.”


Geleske says without stress reduction tools, collective trauma for lawyers increases.


“The nature of your work is to not acknowledge it. Not talk about it. Not to seek wellness services. It wasn't something that was addressed in law school. It's not something that's talked about at your firm. That's a recipe for disaster.”


The Wellbeing in Law event takes place at Mitchell Hamline Law School in St. Paul this Friday, May 5.


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