Burnout, Empathy, and Self-care among Mental Health Counselors
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The implications of burnout for those who engage in human service work continue to be of significant interest. Burnout prevalence, specifically in the form of emotional exhaustion among mental health counselors, has been of particular interests due to the unique interpersonal nature of their work and the exposure to unique stressors for which many counselors are not equipped with the necessary resources or strategies to effectively cope. Empathy, a vital component of counseling, has been shown to serve as both a protective factor and risk factor to the development of burnout. A growing body of research has highlighted the role of self-care in mitigating burnout symptoms particularly for those in the mental health field. Thus, the current study examined the relationship between burnout, empathy, and self-care among 111 mental health counselors from various mental health agencies in the United States. The main goals of the study were to examine the bi-variate and liner relationships between empathy and burnout and to determine whether self-care significantly moderated the relationship between the empathy variables and burnout. The results of the study provided minimal support for the stated hypotheses. Personal distress was the only empathy variable that was significantly correlated with burnout, though it did not significantly predict burnout. Self-care was shown to significantly predict burnout scores above and beyond each empathy variable. Additionally, hierarchical linear regression analyses only revealed a significant moderating effect of self-compassion on the relationship between empathic concern and burnout, though further examination of the interaction revealed that none of the simple slopes were significant. Implications and future areas for research are discussed.
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