Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Preventing Rehabilitation Counselor Burnout by Balancing the Caseload

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Preventing Rehabilitation Counselor Burnout by Balancing the Caseload

Article excerpt

Rehabilitation counselors, like all other human service professionals, are highly susceptible to burnout due to extensive client contact, caseload responsibilities, and positive or negative case outcomes. Even in the midst of success, constant stress stems from high expectations of self and others (Emener, 1979; Maslach, 1982; Maslach & Florian, 1988; Maslach & Jackson, 1984; Roessler & Rubin, 1982; Ursprung, 1986). For the rehabilitation counselor to be an effective helper, professional demands must be balanced with personal needs. Without careful management, rehabilitation counselors may want to stop helping others and may need serious help themselves.

In studies of many human service fields, Christina Maslach (1982) defined burnout as "...a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who do people work' of some kind" (p. 2). The rehabilitation counselor's work can gratify and drain simultaneously. To enjoy life professionally and personally, the rehabilitation counselor must become an effective manager who can control rather than be controlled by responsibilities, risks, and rewards (Cassell & Mulkey, 1985; Emener, 1979; Roessler & Rubin, 1982; Ursprung, 1986; Wright, 1980). Balancing the rehabilitation caseload by management of self, management in setting, management through situations, and management toward solutions can prevent rehabilitation counselor burnout. their identities as people and counselors separate. The most vigorous visionary can become disillusioned when faced with increasing numbers of people with increasingly complex problems and fewer resources with which to help them. It is one thing to identify how it feels and quite something else to take on the identity of "walking in another person's shoes." Becoming personally involved rather than remaining professionally involved in a client's life can cause the counselor to feel inadequate in the solution of problems. Identity and Role

Personal identity and professional role delineation is essential for the rehabilitation counselor (Emener, 1979; Maslach, 1982: Roessler & Rubin, 1982; Wright, 1980). In his study of burnout among rehabilitation counselors, Emener (1979) stated:

"Many rehabilitation counselors enter the field of rehabilitation with the seeds of idealism which were cultivated in graduate school. It can be very disillusioning for them to realize, for example, that their senior colleagues' concerns for their jobs are actually related to their aspirations for upward mobility within the agency, that they cannot control as many of the variables that affect them to the extent that they thought they could, and that the techniques which once worked so well with a few practicum clients are not as successful with a caseload of 150 (p. 57)." Expectations and Realities

The rehabilitation counselor's expectations in several areas affect performance and satisfaction. Confusion usually comes from unclear, over-burdening, or non-challenging supervisory expectations (Maslach, 1982; Maslach & Florian, 1988). Because of role specificity in different environments, particularly in private and public rehabilitation organizations, counselors must know the ropes" of their roles in order to perform necessary responsibilities and to produce needed results (Rubin, Matkin, Ashley, Beardsley, May, Onstott, & Puckett, 1984).

Rehabilitation counselors must allow for and adjust to frequent discrepancies in outcome expectations and realities. The early years in any position shape realistic or unrealistic, as well as positive or negative, expectations that result in the beginning of long-term growth or burnout (Emener, 1979; Field & Van Seters, 1988; Maslach, 1982). A counselor's abilities and cooperation with others can determine whether a counselor manages or fails to manage large caseloads of real people with both real problems and real potential. …

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