Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Experiences of Burnout, Self-Care, and Recovery of Female University Counsellors in Taiwan/Les Expériences D'épuisement Professionnel, D'autosoins et De Rétablissement De Conseillères En Milieu Universitaire À Taiwan

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Experiences of Burnout, Self-Care, and Recovery of Female University Counsellors in Taiwan/Les Expériences D'épuisement Professionnel, D'autosoins et De Rétablissement De Conseillères En Milieu Universitaire À Taiwan

Article excerpt

Counsellors are at constant risk of burnout from having to deal with the maladjustment of clients in an environment that is often highly emotionally charged (Walker & Matthews, 1997). Because counsellors are the primary tool of counselling intervention (Feltham & Horton, 2006), they influence the outcome to a greater degree than do any of the techniques they employ (Wampold, 2001). Therefore, providing services of optimum quality requires that counsellors maintain themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually.

The counselling code of ethics outlined by the Taiwan Guidance and Counselling Association (TGCA, 2001) explicitly specifies the responsibilities of counsellors, including self-monitoring of physical and psychosocial conditions. In the event the counsellor becomes impaired, counselling work must cease, to prevent possible harm to clients (TGCA, 2001). Researchers should provide information about counsellor burnout, self-care, and recovery to assist counsellors in overcoming the difficulties and preventing the potential risks of conducting counselling treatment. In Taiwan, most certified counsellors work within a school setting and most are female (C. S. Lin, 2008); therefore, the purpose of this study is to describe Taiwanese female university counsellors' experience of burnout, self-care, and recovery.

BURNOUT

S. M. Lee et al. (2007) define burnout as "a counsellor having significant difficulty performing the necessary functions of his or her job at an objectively competent level" (p. 143). Burnout among counsellors is characterized as a failure to perform clinical tasks due to feelings of personal discouragement, apathy toward systemic stress, and emotional or physical drain (Harrison & Westwood, 2009). Counsellors who are burned out frequently suffer from secondary traumatic stress (STS), vicarious traumatization (VT), compassion fatigue (CF), and other negative reactions. Mental health practitioners with STS show symptoms of intrusive imagery, avoidance of reminders and cues, hyperarousal, distressing emotions, and functional impairment (Figley, 1995). VT refers to the changes observed in the caregivers of traumatized persons, which cause "significant disruptions in one's sense of meaning, connection, identity, and worldview, as well as in one's tolerance, psychological needs, beliefs about self and others, interpersonal relationships, and sensory memory" (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995, p. 151). CF is the convergence of traumatic stress, STS, and cumulative stress/burnout in the lives of caregivers (Figley, 2002).

A framework for conceptualizing burnout should incorporate both individual and organizational dynamics, taking into account the interaction between them (Harrison & Westwood, 2009; Y. C. Wang, 2009). Medeiros and Prochaska (1988), after examining psychotherapists' reactions while working with stressful clients, claimed the more that psychotherapists rely on optimistic perseverance, the better they perceive themselves as coping with the stresses of their job; alternatively, the more they use self-reevaluation and wishful thinking, the greater the intensity and the stress they experience. Other characteristics of counsellors that relate to higher occurrences of burnout include having an unrealistic expectation of what can be accomplished; unresolved family issues (Grosch & Olsen, 1994); the need to be liked by clients; and over-involvement, blurred boundaries, or feeling personally responsible for change (Ackerley, Burnell, Holder, & Kurdek, 1988). Counsellors with the above characteristics are less likely to conduct effective self-care to help prevent impairment, dysfunction, and/or burnout.

The working environment of the counselling profession is highly pressured, and counsellors encounter job strain in the workplace (S. M. Lee et al., 2007). A variety of environmental factors contribute to low morale among professionals, such as a lack of influence over decisions at work, heavy caseloads, insufficient resources, a lack of feedback related to job performance, role ambiguity, and conflict (Osborn, 2004). …

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