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Copyright (c) 2000 by Thomas M. Cooley Law School
Thomas M. Cooley Law Review


Hilary Term, 2000

17 T.M. Cooley L. Rev. 125


David Wexler 1


Therapeutic jurisprudence is the "study of the role of the law as a therapeutic agent." 2 It focuses on the law's impact on emotional life and on psychological well-being. 3 These are areas that have not received very much attention in the law until now. Therapeutic jurisprudence focuses our attention on this previously underappreciated aspect, humanizing the law and concerning itself with the human, emotional, psychological side of law and the legal process.

Basically, therapeutic jurisprudence is a perspective that regards the law as a social force that produces behaviors and consequences. 4 Sometimes these consequences fall within the realm of what we call therapeutic; other times antitherapeutic consequences are produced. 5 Therapeutic jurisprudence wants us to be aware of this and wants us to see whether the law can be made or applied in a more therapeutic way so long as other values, such as justice and due process, can be fully respected. 6

It is important to recognize that therapeutic jurisprudence does not itself suggest that therapeutic goals should trump other ones. 7 It does not support paternalism, coercion, and so on. 8 It is simply a way of looking at the law in a richer way, and then bringing to the table some of these areas and issues that previously have gone unnoticed. 9 Therapeutic jurisprudence simply suggests that we think about these issues and see if they can be factored into our law-making, lawyering, or judging. 10

Therefore, therapeutic jurisprudence is the study of ...
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