• Empathy and Compassion as Predictors or Counselor Burnout and Resilience

      Elder, Carrie L.; College of Professional Advancement
      Empathy is frequently taught as a core disposition and helping skill in counselor education programs. Recent studies have found empathy to activate the pain network within the brain and compassion to activate non-overlapping brain regions. These findings have led neuroscientists to hypothesize that empathy leads to burnout and compassion leads to resilience. These findings have implications for the field of counseling since burnout has the potential to lead to impaired client treatment. The purpose of this study is to use a quantitative, multiple regression analysis to determine if empathy is predictive of counselor burnout and compassion predictive of counselor resilience. Results indicate that increases in empathy, and decreases in self-compassion, are predictive of counselor burnout. Results also indicate that self-compassion, compassion towards others, and a decrease in empathy is predictive of counselor resilience. Furthermore, results indicate that the model that best predicts counselor burnout is empathy (fantasy, personal distress, and less ability to take the perspective of others), working outside of private practice, one to five years of experience, and lower scores on self-compassion and compassion towards others. The model that best predicts counselor resilience is compassion towards self and others, empathic perspective taking, less empathic personal distress, less empathic fantasy, working in private practice, and Republican affiliation. Results from this study indicate that compassion plays a significant role in predicting both high resilience and low levels of burnout. These findings support counselor educators in teaching compassion skills equal to empathy skills to counselors in training as a measure of self and client care.