Therapist uses legal training as she counsels law students and runs a small business


Mindy Layne Young has combined her training as a lawyer and therapist into a unique career.

She graduated from Wayne State University Law School in 1986 and practiced with United Auto Workers Ford Legal Services for a while. Then, she returned to the University of Michigan – where she had earned her bachelor’s degree in political science – and gained a master of social work degree. Today, she is vice president and general counsel for the Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine and a practicing senior clinical psychiatric social worker there.

Why the career change to social work?

“Almost five years into my practice of law, three things happened in unison,” she said. “My father, who was developing a large retail organization, became ill and asked me to help run his business. This essentially forced me to learn business and ended up being quite a positive experience for us. The second thing that happened was I started to have a family and recognized that it would be very hard for me to spend the requisite amount of time I wanted with my young children and work full time as a lawyer. Finally, I recognized that I was more interested in the mental health of young lawyers than I was actually in the practice of law.”

Back in graduate school again, Young developed a strong interest in cognitive-behavioral therapy, which she practices today.

“Cognitive behavioral therapy is a method of treatment that examines the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behavior,” Young said. “The goal of CBT is to help the patient learn to correct distorted thoughts and change maladaptive behaviors. Like the law, CBT offers principles and practices around which to structure.”

She also developed a particular interest in offering psychotherapy to law students, with whom she can easily relate.

“Law school, particularly the first year, often pushes students to their limits,” Young said. “It is a time of great challenge and high expectations. While it is sometimes met with enthusiasm, it also can evoke anxiety and depression. Law school exacts an emotional toll on almost everyone.

“Here is a recent example of someone we saw at the Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine: A second-semester law student presented to us with panic attacks. He reported feeling overwhelmed with the workload, yet at the same time, procrastinating writing his brief and outlining for finals. His daily motivation was poor, and he had a hard time getting to class each morning. After comprehensive evaluation, this young man was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Law school did not cause these conditions, but the unique stress of being a first-year student defeated his previous ways of coping as an undergraduate. Medications and cognitive behavioral therapy significantly reduced his symptoms.”

Young enjoyed her own years at Wayne Law but also remembers feeling anxiety sometimes as a student.

“I truly enjoyed the camaraderie I had with my classmates – the shared experience cultivated warm attachments,” Young said. “Bear in mind that the 30 years since law school has anesthetized me from too many memories of all-nighters or the stress of writing my first brief.”

She particularly liked working as a law student for the Free Legal Aid Clinic, she said.

“I learned great lawyering skills at the Free Legal Aid Clinic, which fostered my interest in providing comprehensive legal services for individuals who may not be otherwise able to access and afford assistance,” Young said. “I was an idealistic law student. I went to law school so that I could serve people in need. The same motivations propelled my career change less than a decade later.”

While Young was working as a lawyer, her husband, Dr. Joel Young, was training as a psychiatrist at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. Eventually, they created the Rochester
Center for Behavioral Medicine, a clinical and research center in Rochester Hills with more than 30 mental health professionals on staff today. The Youngs have practiced psychotherapy together since 1996.

For Mindy Young, her life’s training and experience as a lawyer, in business and in social work have blended into a unique personal history that suits her well.

“I now find myself at the helm of a small business,” she said. “We strive to make a workplace that is family friendly, where our employees get paid well and have good benefits. I use my diverse training every business day. One hour I can be working with a suicidal patient, the next hour negotiating an employment contract. My training as a lawyer and a therapist has offered me an incredibly rich and rewarding career.”