I decided to write on the topic of school counsellor burnout since it is already the third week into the new school year. If you are like me it was exciting to start back, but reality has since set in and things seem a bit overwhelming with all that needs done. Burnout is a term that is often applied to those in helping professions and is typically identified as emotionally exhausted, withdrawal from and cynicism toward clients, and a sense that you are no longer accomplishing tasks. Friedman (2000) suggested that burnout occurs in several stages: the emergence of stress, the emergence of stress-induced experiences, and the emergence of reactions to stress-induced experiences. These stages can progress along a cognitive track that includes thoughts focused on a lack of personal and professional fulfillment or along an emotional track that involves feelings of exhaustion and general overload. Friedman indicated that many theories of stress and burnout have been posited, but one factor common to all theories of stress is that those under stress and on the road to burnout report a discrepancy between what they expected and what they have actually observed. This discrepancy can lead to a deterioration of professional and personal self-efficacy and ultimately burnout.
Friedman (2000) suggested that an approach to reducing the discrepancy between expectations and observations is to define realistic and achievable goals in respect to professional duties and relationships by creating consensus around the definition of formal and informal boundaries between students, teachers, and other school staff, to try to have a sense of humour about errors and mishaps, and to keep expectations realistic. Working in a school can be a very rewarding opportunity, but at time problems may seem insurmountable as funds decline and responsibility increases. It is the role of the school counsellor to help others with their struggles, but who is helping us? It is essential that school counsellors actively participate in self care strategies and utilize supports when needed in addition to having an awareness of the signs of burnout so that they are able to recognize and intervene if burnout is occurring personally or to other professionals in the school.
Tips for preventing burnout:
- Identify goals and evaluate accordingly both at home and on the job.
- Maintain personal growth both at home and on the job.
- Seek out helpful supervision for your work both at home and on the job.
- Develop an active outside life with a variety of interests.
- Feel comfortable with yourself, set limits for yourself and know how far to become involved with family and colleagues.
- Encourage and practice good communication skills.
- Provide for flexible working conditions.
- Find your own “decompression techniques” such as activities like meditation or exercise that relieve tension and put you into a more relaxed state.
- Build a support system for yourself so that you can discuss your problems and help look for solutions. Don’t just air gripes, look for solutions.
Friedman, I. (2000). Burnout in Teachers: Shattered Dreams of Impeccable Professional Performance. Psychotherapy in Practice, 56 (5), 595-606.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA