BarCare Interview with BarCare Director, Jenny Houen

Bar News

The Bar Council and Bar Association is deeply committed to supporting the mental health of members. One of the most important tools it makes available is BarCare. BarCare is an entirely confidential service directed at assisting members through difficult times. Bar News met with BarCare Director, Jenny Houen to learn more about BarCare and what it has to offer to the NSW Bar.

Bar News (BN): Can you tell me about BarCare and its mission?

Jenny Houen (JH): BarCare is an integral part of the Bar community that provides assistance to all barristers, their immediate family members, clerks who are members of the Bar Association, and Bar Association staff members who are experiencing difficulties in their professional or personal lives.

The service operates independently of the Bar Association. In addition to providing professional, psychological or other support, it also has the capacity to facilitate financial assistance in times of need, such as illness or bereavement via a grant from the Barristers’ Benevolent Fund (BBF).

BN: When was BarCare established and how has it evolved over time?

JH: BarCare was established in 2002. Since then it has assisted hundreds of barristers to access support and assistance. It has raised awareness of the importance of recognising when you are struggling and would benefit from seeking some assistance. More recently, an increased focus has been on the importance of seeking assistance when dealing with the effects of vicarious trauma, which many practitioners will experience throughout their careers.

BN: As the director, what is your role within BarCare?

JH: My role is to respond to any enquiries from barristers and clerks regarding concerns about themselves, a colleague, or a family member. I am available to talk, in person or via phone, to work out what would be most helpful in each situation. I provide advice regarding how to access assistance from a BarCare specialist, or from another specialist, if that is the person’s preference. Barristers who live outside the metropolitan area are encouraged to contact me, as I will work to locate a suitable treating practitioner in that area.

As a social worker I am also able to provide supportive counselling in addition to the therapeutic assistance provided by psychologists.

BN: How is confidentiality maintained? Is there assurance that any information shared with you or any BarCare specialists will not be disclosed to the Bar Association?

JH: The service is strictly confidential and BarCare does not give any personal information to the Bar Association without the express permission of the barrister involved. Barristers can be assured that any conversation with me is completely confidential. The psychologists and other professionals on the BarCare panel are ethically and legally bound to protect the confidentiality and privacy of their clients.

BN: What specific service does BarCare offer?

JH: Barristers, members, and their families can access up to six sessions with BarCare specialists, with the cost covered by BarCare, in addition to any additional supportive counselling that I may provide. Additionally, I can prepare submissions for a financial grant from the BBF for barristers facing financial stress due to circumstances such as ill health or bereavement.

BarCare also has a website that provides information on all the specialists BarCare works with, including psychologists, psychiatrists, GPs, and bereavement. The website can also offer links to other support networks and websites, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Beyond Blue and the BBF.

BN: In what areas can BarCare specialists provide assistance?

JH: The range of reasons that prompt a barrister or clerk to seek assistance are varied but predominantly include work-related stress, anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties, drug and alcohol use, vicarious trauma, and bullying and harassment. The psychologists on the panel are very experienced and familiar with the particular challenges that confront barristers in their workplace. The BarCare website is continuously updated with new specialists.

BN: Can you also tell us about your role as the Sexual Harassment Officer?

JH: My role also includes being the Bar Association’s Sexual Harassment Officer. This is an independent role, and I provide assistance to anyone who has experienced or witnessed discrimination, workplace bullying, or sexual harassment at the NSW Bar. Those affected can contact me directly for support and referral to appropriate services. Additionally, the Bar Association has an online tool, Spot, which allows those who have witnessed or experienced discrimination, workplace bullying, or sexual harassment at the NSW Bar to make a confidential record of what happened and, if they wish, to report the behaviour to the Sexual Harassment Officer anonymously or in an identified fashion. The Spot platform can be accessed through the NSW Bar Association website. BN

You can contact Jenny on 0427 317 958 via email on or learn more about BarCare at

Bar News