Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The Effect of Gender and Self-Care Behaviors on Counselors' Perceptions of Colleagues with Depression. (Research)

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The Effect of Gender and Self-Care Behaviors on Counselors' Perceptions of Colleagues with Depression. (Research)

Article excerpt

Despite the increasing consciousness within the mental health profession of the need for counselors to engage in self-care behaviors (Carroll, Gilroy, & Murra, 1999a; Porter, 1995), evidence suggests that many professionals do not adequately support the self-care efforts of colleagues (Gilroy, Carroll, & Murra, 2002; Walsh, Nichols, & Cormack, 1991). Research (Gilroy et al., 2002; Heath, 1991; Pope & Tabachnick, 1994) has also indicated that mental health clinicians are especially susceptible to depressive symptoms by virtue of the demanding nature of their professional lives. Given that persons with depression often encounter negative attitudes, rejection, and devaluation from others (Sacco, 1999), including mental health counselors (Ford & Elliott, 1999), how do clinicians with depression who engage in various self-care behaviors fare in terms of collegial acceptance and support? The primary purpose of this study was to explore the possible mediating effects that gender and self-care behaviors have on counselors' reactions to colleagues who experience depressive symptomatology. A secondary purpose was to examine the validity and reliability of a measure of therapist attractiveness titled the Therapist Attractiveness Rating Questionnaire (TARQ). Recommendations in self-care and collegial relationships are also offered for use in professional development and counselor training.

Depression is probably the most prevalent symptom of professional distress found among mental health practitioners. For example, Pope and Tabachnick (1994) reported that 61% of their sample of mental health professionals had experienced at least one episode of clinical depression. Mahoney (1997) found that one third of the 155 psychotherapists who participated in his study of therapists' personal problems and patterns of self-care reported episodes of depression or anxiety within the previous year.

The prevalence of depressive symptoms among clinicians has heightened awareness of the need for counselors to attend to not only the well-being of clients but also of themselves (e.g., Coster & Schwebel, 1997; Faunce, 1990; Schwebel & Coster, 1998).Although personal counseling, as one form of intrapersonal work, has often been recommended for counseling trainees, counselors experience ambivalence about exercising this self-care option. Numerous authors (Fleischer & Wissler, 1985; Kaslow, 1986) have explored this resistance on the part of counselors. According to Kaslow the help-seeking counselor is more likely to (a) denigrate his or her counselor's skills, (b) be resistant to his or her counselor's interpretations, (c) be more competitive with the counselor, and (d) be more confrontational and critical than his or her noncounselor client. Fleischer and Wissler referred to the "struggle with patienthood" described as therapists' fear that "feelings emerging in one's own psychotherapy would erode the carefully honed sense of stir-as-healer/ patient-as-wounded paradigm, rendering therapists exactly like the patients they are supposed to help" (p. 590). This raises an important question about how counselors, who often feel ambivalent about seeking personal counseling for their own mental health issues, feel about other colleagues who elect personal counseling for themselves.

Although numerous studies have attempted to explore the extent of mental health problems in practitioners and their attempts to cope with these issues, few investigations have specifically addressed the effects of such issues on collegial relationships. In one of a limited number of studies to specifically explore the impact of counselors' mental health problems on collegial relationships, Gilroy et al. (2002) recently surveyed the membership of the Association of Women in Psychology. Seventy-six percent of their sample (n = 220) reported experiencing some form of depressive symptoms, with the most frequent diagnosis being dysthymia. …

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