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Copyright (c) 1997 American Psychological Association, Inc. 
Psychology, Public Policy and Law


March, 1997

3 Psych. Pub. Pol. and L. 184


Bruce J. Winick, University of Miami *


I. Introduction

Therapeutic jurisprudence has grown considerably since its inception in the early 1990s. It has generated interest among scholars from law and the social sciences and an already large body of work applying its approach to a wide range of legal issues. 1 It also has produced a body of commentary raising dilemmas and questions about its definition and approach, and discussing the limits and potential dangers of the enterprise. 2 The questions raised are fundamental: What is therapeutic jurisprudence, and how should it be defined? Is it limited to mental health law, or does it have a wider focus? In what sense is it a school of jurisprudence, and how does it differ from other schools of jurisprudence? Is it merely "old wine in new bottles?" 3 Is therapeutic jurisprudence a conservative, paternalistic approach to the law that serves to reinforce the existing distribution of power between mental health professionals and people with disability? 4 Does therapeutic jurisprudence have a normative agenda? Should the value of promoting psychological and physical health outweigh other public policy concerns or constitutional principles? Is therapeutic jurisprudence built on a weak foundation because it is based on social science, which has inherent limitations, particularly when applied to study the legal system? 5 How should the law regard legal issues when their therapeutic implications are uncertain or indeterminate? What is the future direction of therapeutic jurisprudence? This article analyzes these questions about the jurisprudence of therapeutic jurisprudence.

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