Words: Dr. Emma Jones
Image Credits: Open Source
Reading Time: 1.5 minutes

The International Academy of Law and Mental Health’s XXXVth biannual congress was held at Charles University in Prague from 9th-14th July 2017. with a full track focused on therapeutic jurisprudence (“TJ”) and a diverse and interesting range of other contributions, attending it proved to be a valuable and unique experience.

As anyone who has attended conferences and congresses will know, the quality can sometimes be mixed. You may end up leaving feeling inspired and energised, clutching a note pad full of frantic scribbles. However, you may equally wind up with a piece of paper full of doodles and a bad headache! I am pleased to say, the ICLMH was certainly amongst the former. I left with many ideas, reflections and inspirations. The vast array of parallel sessions meant I was only able to get to a small proportion of panels. However, from a personal perspective, I particularly enjoyed the range of sessions on TJ.

To be able to hear contributions from TJ co-founder, David Wexler, as well as many other experienced academics and practitioners within the TJ movement, was a fantastic and rare opportunity for a UK-based academic. It was evident from these TJ sessions that the movement is becoming increasingly mainstream within certain jurisdictions.

Unfortunately, the UK cannot be included amongst them yet. However, the ICLMH session announcing the formation of a new International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence is a welcome step in the right direction. Outside of the TJ track, the panels were hugely varied. The ones I attended range from a writers’ discussion of “Women, creativity and madness” to an examination of “trauma and resilience” in the South Korean context.

I was also fortunate enough to take part in a panel on “legal education and the affective domain”, a topic that is increasingly becoming recognised as important for the wellbeing of all stakeholders. The only word of caution for anyone casting their eye two years hence and considering attending the next Congress is that a certain amount of stamina is required. Sessions ran from 8am to 6pm, with a full four hour afternoon stretch without a break. Refreshments were rather sparse too, although the issuing of lunch tokens for a range of local restaurants was a nice touch. Of course, you can pick and choose which panels and times you attend, but you may well find yourself spoilt for choice. One of my favourites (‘Therapeutic jurisprudence and higher education’) was at 8am on the Wednesday morning, but it was well worth the early start.

Overall, I would highly recommend the ICLMH to anyone with an interest in the new and evolving paradigms and perspectives surrounding law and mental health. You will return home tired, but more than satisfied with your trip.

Dr. Emma Jones is a lecturer in law at the Open University, UK. Read more about her work here.

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