Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Music Therapy

An Opportunity for Positive Change and Growth: Music Therapists' Experiences of Burnout/Une Occasion De Changement Positif et De Développement Personnel : L'expérience De L'épuisement Professionnel Chez Les Musicothérapeutes

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Music Therapy

An Opportunity for Positive Change and Growth: Music Therapists' Experiences of Burnout/Une Occasion De Changement Positif et De Développement Personnel : L'expérience De L'épuisement Professionnel Chez Les Musicothérapeutes

Article excerpt

As music therapists, we are musicians, artists, and healers. This multifaceted identity allows us to interact with clients in many ways. Our role is to enhance their well-being using the medium of music. We are there to listen, support, and aid with their personal processes. This means we are exposed to clients' lives on a daily basis. They reveal their thoughts, feelings, and experiences to us, and in turn we share parts of ourselves with them. The very nature of our work makes us vulnerable, both emotionally and professionally, and there are times when we carry our clients' emotions with us after strongly identifying with their experiences.

As a profession, we experience vulnerability in terms of work creation and working style. Many music therapists hold contract positions, and it can be difficult to find full-time work. Furthermore, since music therapy is a relatively young profession in Canada, health care administrators often misunderstand it, and there is a constant need to explain our roles within the health care system. These stressors, among others, may bring about a phenomenon known as burnout (Clements-Cortés, 2006). Like other professionals working in human services fields, music therapists are not immune to experiencing this phenomenon. It is likely that many of us may experience burnout at some point in our careers, as the prevalence of burnout among health care professionals around the world is increasing (Schaufeli, Leiter, & Maslach, 2008).

Literature Review

Burnout

Freudenberger (1974) and Maslach (1976) were among the first to use the term burnout. Burnout can be defined as a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who work with humans in some capacity (Maslach, Jackson, & Leiter, 1996). Emotional exhaustion is the main symptom of burnout and the easiest to recognize. It can be described as an inability to care. Depersonalization is the therapist's lack of sensitivity towards clients. It is an attempt to distance oneself from clients, as clients' demands are more manageable when clients are seen as impersonal objects. A combination of depersonalization and exhaustion decreases one's ability to be effective, leading to feelings of reduced personal accomplishment. When this develops further, it can manifest into negative thoughts about oneself, as it can be a challenge to feel a sense of accomplishment when emotionally exhausted or indifferent towards clients (Lamont, 2004; Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001). Burnout among health care professionals is most often measured using the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), which measures respondents' scores on the three dimensions/subscales (emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment) of burnout. The MBI is a 22-item, 7-point Likert-type scale (Kim, 2012). A high degree of burnout is indicated by high scores on the emotional exhaustion and depersonalization subscales and in low scores on the personal accomplishment subscale.

Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue can be defined as "a state of tension and preoccupation with the traumatized patients by re-experiencing the traumatic events, avoidance/numbing of reminders, [and] persistent arousal (e.g., anxiety) associated with the patient" (Figley, 2002, p. 1435). It is "prevalent across all spectrums of the helping professions and is flourishing" (Showalter, 2010, p. 239). Although some researchers (Austin et al., 2013; Joinson, 1992) have stated that compassion fatigue is a type of burnout, others (Berzoff & Kita, 2010; Devilly, Wright, & Varker, 2009) have suggested that the two phenomena are different. Doman (2010) wrote that compassion fatigue is a form of vicarious trauma only experienced by those in the helping professions but that burnout can affect people in any profession. Collins and Long (2003) proposed that burnout is a result of accumulated stress associated with overwork, whereas compassion fatigue is caused by secondary traumatic experience. …

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