Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Seven Salutary Suggestions for Counselor Stamina

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Seven Salutary Suggestions for Counselor Stamina

Article excerpt

Mental health and substance abuse practitioners today are besieged with numerous demands on their time, talents, and resources. Several authors have discussed these current challenges (Austad, Sherman, Morgan, & Holstein, 1992; Carpenter, 1999; Ivey, Scheffler, & Zazzali, 1998; Langeland, Johnson, & Mawhinney, 1998; Manderscheid, Henderson, Witkin, & Atay, 2000; Scheffler, Ivey, & Garrett, 1998), which include working within the restrictions of funding cuts, practicing mandated short-term counseling, and responding to the expectations of accountability and evidence-based outcomes. In addition, counselors are expected to remain current with increased and continuously changing certification and licensure standards, work collaboratively with an increasing array of professionals from varied disciplines in the mental health marketplace, and care for an increasing number of clients needing specialized care. These and other challenges have contributed to counselor burnout (Arvay & Uhlemann, 1996; Geurts, Schaufeli, & De Jonge, 1998; Linehan, Cochran, Mar, Levensky, & Comtois, 2000; Shoptaw, Stein, & Rawson, 2000) and high turnover rates (Baker & Baker, 1999; Ben-Dror, 1994), indications of stress, disillusionment, and low morale among practitioners (Cushway &Tyler, 1996; Gabel & Oster, 1998; Rohland, 2000; Thompson, 1998).

In the context of challenging mental health service and substance abuse treatment, this article considers the concept of stamina for counselors. Stamina is often defined as endurance and refers to the strength to withstand (or remain standing), resist, or hold up under pressure or difficulty (Colerick, 1985; Thomas, 1982). A salient connotation of stamina is that of durability, and its etymology suggests a moving forward (Neufeldt & Guralnik, 1997). In this respect, stamina represents a salutary or nonpathological orientation and is selected as an alternative to the deficit or pathological perspective suggested by the terms burnout prevention and coping. Burnout has been defined as the process of physical and emotional depletion resulting from conditions at work (Farber, 1983; Shinn, Rosario, Morch, & Chestnut, 1984) or, more concisely, prolonged job stress (Maslach & Schaufeli, 1993). Coping refers to strategies to reduce and manage stress and strain (Brown, 1993; Dewe, Cox, & Ferguson, 1993; Shinn et al., 1984). Both coping and prevention connote a reactionary posture, suggesting that the problem remains the protagonist, and efforts used are always in reaction to, and fighting against, the problem. In its colloquial use, coping also conveys a sense of "barely getting by," "just making it," or "trying to keep my head above water."

A discussion of stamina intends to draw attention to the cultivation, amplification, and routine use of one's strengths and resources, as opposed to focusing on a problem (i.e., burnout) and outlining attempts to rid oneself of or continually fight against the problem (i.e., coping). From a social work perspective, Carpenter (1999) observed that

   much has been written in the past ten years about job
   dissatisfaction, stress, and burnout in the human service
   profession, [but] little attention has been paid to the over-riding
   unselfish, altruistic concern for the welfare of others which is
   the foundation of the social work profession. (p. 70)

In discussing the value of stamina, this article addresses Carpenter's (1999) observation and concern by shifting attention away from notions of stress and depletion. It focuses instead on cultivating resources intended to keep one's outlook positive and one's work fresh, relevant, and rewarding. Seven suggestions or ingredients for stamina are presented, each corresponding to the seven letters in the word stamina, thus creating the acronym STAMINA (i.e., selectivity, temporal sensitivity, accountability, measurement and management, inquisitiveness, negotiation, and acknowledgment of agency). …

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