Date of Award

8-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Counselor Education

Major Professor

Joel F. Diambra

Committee Members

Shawn L. Spurgeon, Gary J. Skolits, Victor Barr

Abstract

Professional burnout is a phenomenon common to professionals working within the helping fields (Figley, 2002). Though common, little exists in the way of formal theories to define and understand the phenomenon and how it may be understood in a progressive, developmental sense (Paris & Hoge, 2010). To date, burnout has primarily been understood and researched through the study of other constructs that fit within the global definition of burnout (Newell & MacNeil, 2010), as well as more constructivist approaches to the phenomenon, stating there are no predictive cycles or types of experiences that result in a perceived sense of professional burnout (Sang Min, Seong Ho, Kissinger, & Ogle, 2010). This study sought to capture the perceptions and lived experiences of new professional clinical mental health counselors who self-reported feelings of burnout that resulted in subsequent attrition from the field of counseling. Using a qualitative directed content analysis approach, this study explored the application of the Indivisible Self Model of Wellness (Myers & Sweeney, 2004) to participant experiences of professional burnout. The analysis of these interviews yielded five key findings: the impact of administrators and mental health treatment systems on the experience of new professional counselors; the reliance on mental health professionals as friends and supports as well as strain in relationships with partners; physiological and behavioral changes impacting a counselor’s overall sense of physical health; the complicated and conflicting emotions related to burnout and attrition; and the progressive, cumulative nature of burnout. I discuss these findings as they relate to implications for counselor education and supervision and provide suggestions for future areas of research.

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