Holistic Approach to Defending in Military Justice

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As I think about how to make my practice better and ways to innovate military justice practice, I constantly return to trying to find ways of helping clients navigate their experience.  As part of my initial talk with each military client, I explain to each that I see him as divided into two discrete parts.  On the one hand, the military client is a crucial team member for his defense because often he knows more than prosecutors will about all of the facts and circumstances of the allegation(s).  On the other, the military client is a person that is going through one of the most stressful times in his life.  I explain that I need the human piece of him to be best positioned to contribute as the team member.  Doing so often entails the need for sleep, exercise, medical appointments long ago delayed, and general wellbeing.

Complications in Obtaining Behavioral Health Support

For years, I advised clients to obtain short term and long-term needs in the way of behavioral health support through Army OneSource.  I was disappointed and then incensed to learn that anyone on active duty in a pending investigation is denied assistance through Army OneSource and must go to see behavioral health providers on base.  Though I can understand the government’s desire perhaps to keep an eye on people facing investigation for risks associated with depression, self-harm, and suicide risk, often this means that clients refuse to get behavioral health support at all.  There is mistrust for on-base providers and the fear that speaking about the stresses of the case could open them up to additional trouble or risk during the investigation.

The cure? Why not have an in-house behavioral health provider or at least one that is in a coalition or partnership with the law firm?  Records would be maintained outside of Department of Defense channels. Having a behavioral health provider in the office would also assist with any crises that come from the tough news the attorneys sometimes have to provide to clients.

Non-Behavioral Health Emotional Support

Meditation and Mindfulness

One of the most common comments I receive from clients is how anxiety inducing and stressful the process is.  And though we do everything we can to quell those anxieties and stressors, the discomfort that comes from being unsure of what decisions commanders will make in a given case is very much a part of the process.  In this age where people are recognizing the wellness benefits of meditationand mindfulness practice, I envision real benefits to having someone well versed in each or both.  Even a 10-minute guided meditation before a client’s scheduled appointment with the attorney could be a meaningful way to make the session the most impactful.  Helping a client let go of some of the clouded and spiraling thoughts would go a long way toward productive attorney meetings.

Among military members, it can be hard to “sell” the importance of mindfulness practice and would serve to be an impediment for clients seeking it out.  But I believe if in the 5 or 10 minutes the client may be waiting for an appointment, he would be more inclined to try.

Chiropractor Adjustments

Another oft-under utilized form of treatment is chiropractor adjustments.  Among the benefits noted that have the potential to help military justice clients are treatment for back pain, headaches, bowel regularity, improved mental clarity, neck pain, arthritis and joint pain, blood pressure, organ function, and possibly even surgery prevention.

According to the Association of Chiropractic Colleges:

“Chiropractic is a healthcare discipline that emphasizes the inherent recuperative power of the body to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery. The practice of chiropractic focuses on the relationship between structure (primarily the spine) and function (as coordinated by the nervous system) and how that relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health. In addition, doctors of chiropractic recognize the value and responsibility of working in cooperation with other health care practitioners when in the best interest of the patient.”

Many chiropractic providers explain how they also can compliment care by other medical providers.

Resources in One Place

When facing the military justice process, clients can hear you tell them “it is a marathon, not a sprint” and listen when you explain the importance of them getting enough rest and exercise, but when obtaining those resources requires an extra step, I see not having them available within the practice as a limiting factor and potentially as an all out impediment.

The hardest aspect that I see in trying to make a holistic approach a reality is cost. Trying not to price oneself out as a provider in the UCMJ legal defense requires balance. I look forward to exploring this potential approach in the future.  No matter whether I determine the above-described model is feasible, I will continue to encourage military justice clients to approach the time they are facing investigation with a holistic vantage point to leverage all possible resources for their case.

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