• 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.
    • Predicting Secondary Traumatic Stress and Burnout: Workplace, Individual, and Client Factors

      Norris, Elizabeth Kaye; College of Professional Advancement
      The purpose of this quantitative, cross-sectional research study was to examine how workplace perceptions, client factors, and individual resources predict secondary traumatic stress (STS) and burnout in a sample of mental health counselors. This study expanded the work of Thompson (2012) by including additional variables that may help to better understand what leads to and protects against adverse consequences experienced in the profession. Specifically, the seven variables of interest were counselors’ perceptions of their working conditions, caseload volume of clients with trauma-related concerns, emotion-focused coping, problem-focused coping, maladaptive coping, compassion satisfaction, and resilience. It was hypothesized that these variables would significantly predict STS and burnout. It was further believed that resilience and caseload volume of clients with trauma-related concerns would carry significant weight on the two outcome variables. The sample included 125 mental health counselors, who worked at least 10 hours a week, and saw at least one client with trauma-related concerns. Following hierarchical multiple linear regression analyses, results indicated that all seven variables predicted 78.4% of the variance in burnout, but only 31.7% of the variance in STS. Caseload volume of clients with trauma-related concerns was significant within the models predicting both STS and burnout, but resilience was only a significant predictor of burnout. Maladaptive coping and caseload volume with clients with trauma-related concerns significantly predicted STS, whereas workplace perceptions, maladaptive coping, compassion satisfaction, caseload volume of clients with trauma-related concerns, and resilience predicted burnout. The results indicate that workplace, client, and individual factors are related to STS and burnout. These findings were encouraging due to the additional information gained in relation to adverse experiences within the counseling field. Continued research is needed to understand the relationships among maladaptive coping, caseload volume of clients with trauma-related concerns, and the stress outcomes of STS and burnout. Furthermore, additional research on STS, along with factors that may predict it would be helpful for practicing counselors.