Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Wellness, Professional Quality of Life and Career-Sustaining Behaviors: What Keeps Us Well?

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Wellness, Professional Quality of Life and Career-Sustaining Behaviors: What Keeps Us Well?

Article excerpt

The tact that impaired counselors are more likely to harm clients has been established (Lawson, Venart, Hazler, & Kottler, 2007); similarly, well counselors are more likely to help clients become more well (Hill, 2004; Witmer & Granello, 2005; Witmer & Young, 1996). Although few studies have examined wellness among counselors, the emerging literature suggests that counselor educators (Wester, Trepal, & Myers, 2009), counseling students (Myers & Sweeney, 2004; Roach & Young, 2007; Smith, Robinson, & Young, 2008), and professional counselors (Lawson, 2007; Mobley, 2003) all face challenges to optimal well-being. Lawson and Venart (2005) observed that counselors may be more vulnerable to mental and emotional disorders than are members of the general population; therefore, they underscored the need to better understand both the risk factors for impairment and the strategies for helping counselors be more resilient and thus more well. The need to better understand wellness among counselors was further underscored by Meyer and Ponton (2006), who observed that "resiliency in counselors is not an accident. Rather it is the cumulative effect of counselors' healthy decision making" (p. 200).

Various authors have suggested strategies for helping counselors make healthy decisions (e.g., Good, Khairallah, & Mintz, 2009; Meyer & Ponton, 2006) as a means of enhancing both personal wellness and professional quality of life (e.g., Cummins, Massey, & Jones, 2007; Venart, Vassos, & Pitcher-Heft, 2007). Most of these suggestions are based on what is known about wellness from both theoretical (e.g., Myers & Sweeney, 2004, 2005a) and empirical perspectives (Myers & Sweeney, 2005a, 2008) rather than on literature that links factors such as compassion fatigue, compassion satisfaction, and burnout, all of which affect professional quality of life (Sprang, Clark, & Whitt-Woosley, 2007). What counselors may do to enhance their professional quality of life, or the extent to which counselors engage in career-sustaining behaviors (CSBs; Stevanovic & Rupert, 2004), and how this affects their wellness have not been examined. Next, we present a brief summary of the literature on three main variables related to counselor wellness to provide a context for better understanding the study and meaning of the results.

* Wellness

Witmer and Sweeney (1992) and Myers, Sweeney, and Witmer (2000) reviewed literature from multiple disciplines to determine empirical correlates of health, quality of life, and longevity. Seventeen characteristics were identified and presented in a hypothetical Wheel of Wellness (Sweeney & Witmer, 1991), which served as the basis for initial studies of wellness from a counseling perspective. The expected relationships among wellness components were not supported in later studies, and a new model, the Indivisible Self Model of Wellness (IS-Wel), emerged as an evidence-based paradigm for understanding the multidimensional nature of holistic well-being (Myers & Sweeney, 2004, 2008). Based in structural equation modeling, the IS-Wel incorporates a three-level factor structure with a single higher order Wellness factor (i.e., the indivisible self), five second-order factors, and the original 17 wellness components grouped within the five factors.

Within the IS-Wel model, wellness is defined as "a way of life oriented toward optimal health and well-being, in which body, mind, and spirit are integrated by the individual to live life more fully within the human and natural community" (Myers et al., 2000, p. 252). The multifaceted, multidimensional wellness construct is consistent with a developmental, preventive orientation that has been identified as the hallmark of the counseling profession (Sweeney, 2001) and has been applied in multiple studies of wellness across populations and settings of interest to professional counselors (see Myers & Sweeney, 2008, for a review of wellness studies). …

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