Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Self-Care and Well-Being in Mental Health Professionals: The Mediating Effects of Self-Awareness and Mindfulness

Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Self-Care and Well-Being in Mental Health Professionals: The Mediating Effects of Self-Awareness and Mindfulness

Article excerpt

Because mental health professionals are susceptible to impairment and burnout that may negatively affect clinical work, it is ethically imperative that they engage in self-care. Previous research has found direct effects of self-care on self-awareness and well-being (e.g., Coster & Schwebel, 1997). Likewise, mindfulness has been found to positively affect well-being (Brown & Ryan, 2003). However, no studies currently available demonstrate a link between self-awareness and well-being. Mindfulness may be the link needed to support this association. A survey of mental health professionals (N = 148) revealed that mindfulness is a significant mediator between self-care and well-being. Consequently, mental health professionals are encouraged to explore their involvement in and beliefs about self-care practices.

**********

According to the core ethical principles of counseling, counselors have a responsibility to do no harm, benefit others, and pursue excellence in their profession (American Counseling Association [ACA], 2005; American Mental Health Counselors Association, 2010). Mental health professionals are susceptible to impairment in their professional lives that can undermine their therapeutic efficacy (Coster & Schwebel, 1997). Coster and Schwebel find that mental health professionals are vulnerable to, e.g., vicarious trauma, substance abuse, relational difficulties, and depression. Therefore, to adhere to their ethical principles, it is important that counselors engage in self-care (e.g., exercise) to decrease the possibility of impairment and enhance their well-being.

The present study explored the link between self-care by mental health professionals and their general well-being. Previous research has found direct effects of self-care on well-being (e.g., Coster & Schwebel, 1997) and self-awareness (e.g., Mackey & Mackey, 1994); however, no studies demonstrate a link between self-awareness and well-being. This omission is interesting considering that mindfulness, which has been associated with self-awareness, has been shown to have a direct effect on well-being (e.g., Brown & Ryan, 2003). This study therefore examined the direct effect of self-care on self-awareness and mindfulness and how these associations affect the well-being of mental health professionals.

What Is Self-care?

The literature reveals few attempts at an operational definition of self-care, and there is minimal agreement among definitions. For example, Pincus (2006) defined self-care vaguely as something "one does to improve [the] sense of subjective well-being. How one obtains positive rather than negative life outcomes" (p. 1). Other researchers have defined self-care by describing activities believed to constitute self-care. Carrol, Gilroy, and Murra (1999) classify self-care as including "intrapersonal work, interpersonal support, professional development and support, and physical/recreational activities" (p. 135). With these definitions in mind and after a thorough literature review, some general themes in self-care have been identified. Researchers have explored physical (Mahoney, 1997), psychological (Norcross, 2000), spiritual (Valente & Marotta, 2005), and support (Guy, 2000) components of self-care.

Physical. The physical component of self-care has been loosely defined as incorporating physical activity (Carroll et al., 1999), which in this context is characterized by bodily movement that results in the utilization of energy, which can occur through exercise, sports, household activities, and other daily functioning (Henderson & Ainsworth, 2001). The intensity of physical activity and the amount of time spent on it can vary dramatically, but recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (2005) suggest at least 30 minutes of physical activity for most days throughout the week is necessary to receive benefits

Although there seem to be many specific advantages of physical activity (Dishman, 2003), it also appears to have a general wellness benefit. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.