Occupational stress in forensic linguistic practice

Solly Elstein, Krzysztof Kredens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As an occupational stressor, working with disturbing material can lead to burnout and vicarious trauma. A profession where exposure to potentially disturbing data tends to be common is that of the forensic linguist, both as an academic researcher and an expert witness in investigative and court settings. Yet, very little is known about the nature of occupational stress in forensic linguistic practice or the coping strategies forensic linguists employ. We address this knowledge gap by drawing on the intersubjective perspective of twelve practitioners, who were interviewed about aspects of their work. We apply thematic analysis to the data to find out what kinds of situations potentially detrimental to psychological wellbeing they encounter in their everyday practice, and how they respond to those situations. We find that, while the practitioners acknowledge the disturbing nature of case data, they are rarely affected by it, at least ostensibly so. This could be due to a number of coping strategies they mention, such as desensitisation; talking to others; putting a distance between themselves and the work; mentally preparing themselves for what they will be seeing, hearing or reading; and seeing their work as contributing positively to society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-72
JournalJournal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

This article is protected by copyright. This is an accepted manuscript of an article published in the Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice. The published version is available at: https://doi.org/10.1558/jalpp.20003


  • burnout
  • forensic linguistics
  • mental wellbeing
  • occupational stressors
  • professional identity
  • vicarious trauma


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