In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Therapeutic Jurisprudence

  • Introduction
  • Key Journals
  • Reference Resources
  • Key Conference Proceeding
  • Therapeutic Jurisprudence and the Judiciary
  • Criticisms of Therapeutic Jurisprudence

Criminology Therapeutic Jurisprudence
Brianna Chesser
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 January 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0203


Therapeutic jurisprudence is an interdisciplinary method of legal scholarship that aims to reform the law in order to positively impact the psychological well-being of the accused person. In 1990, law professors David Wexler and Bruce Winick coined the term “therapeutic jurisprudence” to acknowledge the sociopsychological consequences of any legal action and that these consequences can be impacted by the interpretation of substantive legal rules and procedures. Therapeutic Jurisprudence: The Law as a Therapeutic Agent by David Wexler (Wexler 1990, cited under General Overviews) asserts that the law is capable of operating as a therapeutic agent. In essence, therapeutic jurisprudence examines the extent to which substantive rules, legal procedures, the roles of court personnel such as lawyers, judges, and court administrators combine to produce therapeutic or nontherapeutic consequences, by taking a non-adversarial approach to the administration of justice. The key stakeholders in court proceedings combine their efforts to create a strategy that will assist the offender to take responsibility for making positive changes in their own lives. The use of this approach is becoming more widespread, and principles of therapeutic jurisprudence have also been discussed in light of family law, employment law, torts, and in personal injury law. Although therapeutic jurisprudence has been largely well received, some academics and practitioners have questioned its unfettered implementation. The therapeutic jurisprudential approach argues that any anti-therapeutic consequence of a legal decision should be avoided and where possible, a holistic solution should be found that addresses the behavioral, emotional, psychological, or situational issues of the accused person. However, the use of this approach should not impinge on the operation of the court nor interfere with the administration of justice. Although therapeutic jurisprudence has been largely well received, some academics and practitioners have questioned its unfettered implementation. The rapid dissemination of therapeutic jurisprudence without the accompanying evaluative research has led to varying opinions of the effectiveness of this problem-solving model within the courts and has led some commentators to misinterpret this approach by labeling it paternalistic and coercive. The therapeutic jurisprudential approach is aligned closely with the subsequent development of the mental health court and is also relied heavily upon in other problem-solving court models including drug and other specialist courts.

Key Journals

This section discusses the key national and international journals that publish leading research on therapeutic jurisprudence. Several main journals publish articles in relation to the application and operation of principles of therapeutic jurisprudence. Behavioral Sciences and the Law is an American journal that publishes theoretical and empirical studies that relate to human behavior and legal issues. Importantly, this journal publishes an annual edition that specifically examines international studies. This enables the reader to trace international developments in therapeutic jurisprudence. Law and Human Behavior deals almost exclusively with psycho-legal research. Psychiatry, Psychology and the Law is an Australian publication that publishes international papers relating to the application and efficacy of methods, such as therapeutic jurisprudence. The International Journal of Law and Psychiatry provides comparative analyses of national and international approaches to utilizing therapeutic jurisprudence in practice. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law is an official journal of the American Psychological Association, which considers the contribution of psychology to the public policy and legal issues.

  • Behavioral Sciences and the Law. 1983–.

    Each issue of this journal is based around a particular topic; therapeutic jurisprudence, problem-solving courts, and mental health courts are routinely examined in both empirical and theoretical studies. This is an American-based journal; however, it also publishes international studies.

  • International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. 1978–.

    A multidisciplinary journal that publishes research from the legal, mental health, and social sciences sectors. This journal has a focus on publishing comparative studies on various jurisdictions.

  • Law and Human Behavior. 1977–.

    An interdisciplinary journal that publishes articles discussing issues that arise from the relationships between human behavior, the law, the legal system, and legal processes. It is the official journal of the American Psychology-Law Society (APA Division 41).

  • Psychiatry, Psychology and the Law. 1994–.

    The journal of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Psychiatry, Psychology and the Law. This journal has an interdisciplinary focus that is geared toward students, academics, legal practitioners, and mental health professionals.

  • Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. 1995–.

    This journal publishes empirical and theoretical articles that examine the contribution of psychologists to the law and public policy. This journal is aimed at undergraduate and postgraduate researchers, as well as practitioners who work in the legal, public policy, and psychological fields.

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