Burnout is conceptualised as a syndrome of emotional exhaustion (EE),
depersonalisation (DP), and reduced personal accomplishment (PA) that can occur
among individuals who do people work of some kind (p.3) (Maslach, 1982).
EE is defined as the central quality representing the basic stress dimension of
burnout (Leiter & Maslach, 2001), including feelings of being emotionally
overextended and depleted of emotional resources (Maslach, Schaufeli & Leiter,
2001). The DP or cynicism component depicts the interpersonal context dimension
of burnout (Schaufeli & Enzmaan, 1998), and refers to a negative, callous,
excessively detached response to clients (Aarogones, 2001). The component of reduced
PA represents the self-evaluation dimension of burnout (Leiter & Maslach,
2001). It connotes feelings of inefficacy, lack of achievement and productivity
at work (Maslach et al., 2001). There has been a dearth of research on burnout
in UK clinical psychologists, despite US psychologists reporting burnout levels
of up to 40% (Fortener, 1999; Hann, 1999; Persing, 2000) and mental health workers
being identified as a high risk group for burnout (Onyett, Pillinger, Muijen,
1997). This neglect is disquieting, especially as the only national study on UK
clinical psychologists indicated that 29.4% were highly stressed (Cushway &
Tyler, 1994). Although stress is an insufficient marker for burnout as it does
not incorporate lowered PA or DP in its parameters, it is a significant predictor
of EE (Kaden, 1999; Wertz, 2000). Therefore, UK clinical psychologists could be
at risk of burnout and it is imperative that the nature, extent and correlates
of burnout in this population are investigated.
To examine the nature and extent
of burnout in a national sample of UK clinical psychologists, together with the
individual and organisational variables associated with the three dimensions of
This study utilised a cross sectional survey
Clinical Psychologists (336) recruited from the
Register for Chartered Clinical Psychologists completed a postal survey, including
a Demographic Questionnaire, the Big-Five Mini Markers Scale (Saucier, 1994),
the Therapists Role Stress Inventory (Hellman, 1984), the Facet Free Job Satisfaction
Questionnaire (Quinn & Staines, 1979), and the Maslach Burnout Inventory (Maslach,
Jackson & Leiter, 1996).
UK clinical psychologists
displayed higher scores on emotional exhaustion, lower scores on depersonalisation
and personal accomplishment as compared to their US counterparts. Psychologists
appeared to be working an average of 35 hours per week, and reported moderate
therapeutic role stress, moderate levels of job satisfaction and high scores on
agreeableness and conscientiousness. Professional doubt emerged as a key stressor
and correlated with all three burnout dimensions. Logistic regression analyses
indicated that 70.54% of cases for EE were correctly classified by conscientiousness,
perception of workload, perception of being burnt out, resource depletion and
professional doubt. For DP, 80.30% of cases were correctly classified by years
post qualification, conscientiousness, agreeableness, total hours worked and professional
doubt. For PA, administrative work, extroversion, openness to change and professional
doubt correctly classified 72.02% of cases. The association of specific individual,
organisational and stress appraisal variables with EE, DP and PA also lent weight
to the multidimensional conceptualisation of burnout.
Significant proportions of UK clinical psychologists are burnt out, and 47% of
clinical psychologists in this study indicated a high likelihood of leaving their
job. The high levels of burnout also suggest that a proportion of these burnt
out, unsupported psychologists may be providing an unethical, poor quality of
care to their clients. Thus, these findings have implications for the individuals,
their clients, the profession and the NHS. It is hoped that this research will
raise awareness and positively impact on the individual psychologists level
of self-care, clinical practice and facilitate the development of intervention
and preventative strategies for burnout.
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
Reflection Exercise #3
The preceding section contained information about
burnout in clinical psychologists. Write three case study examples regarding how
you might use the content of this section in your practice.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
What is the basic stress dimension of a burnout? Record the letter
of the correct answer the .