Human service professionals play an important role in the reorganization of people’s lives. The work is very emotionally demanding. There are many barriers to serving consumers in the human service profession that leads to a larger barrier, burnout. Burnout as first defined by Freudenberger, is “the debilitating psychological condition brought about by unrelieved work stress, resulting in: depleted energy and emotional exhaustion, lowered resistance to illness, increased depersonalization in interpersonal relationships, increased dissatisfaction and pessimism, increased absenteeism, and work inefficiency" (Freudenberger, 1975) Large caseloads, long hours, and lack of appreciation can cause burnout. Lack of funding, fear of downsizing, communication barriers, lack of resources, and the ability to serve consumers needs are some factors that could lead to individual, cultural, organizational, supervisory, and social support burnout in human services. .
Causes and Prevention of Burnout in Human Services
There are several factors that can cause individual burnout. Unrealistic career goals and expectations not met quickly can cause burnout. Research by Elliott and Guy, signifies that many human service professionals that enter the field has a past of abuse or pain and loss (Elliot & Guy, 1993). Unresolved pass issues naturally cause burnout. Compassion fatigue, another individual factor, is the emotional and physical fatigue that human service professionals experience because of continual use of sympathy and compassion when taking care of and servicing clients who are in distress. According to Corcoran, compassion fatigue increases when a worker does not see positive outcomes with the clients. Also many professionals find it difficult to say no to clients’ inability to pay, or rescheduling missed appointments (Corcoran, 1987). Another factor causing individual burnout is vicarious trauma. Vicarious trauma is a human service professional’s direct experience to a client’s trauma, which triggers a painful experience.
Some methods to prevent individual burnout are classifications of self-care. John Norcross states “There are self-care solutions in the emotional, physical, social, intellectual, sexual, and spiritual dimensions of life that underscore humanity.” Examples of self-care strategies:
• Personalize work space (pictures, plants, etc.) and counter conditioning (exercise, read, etc.)
• Healing modalities
• Comfortable work chair
• Places of worship
Another prevention method to individual burnout is therapy before during the profession. It is necessary for the human service professional to heal oneself before taking care of others.
According to Lewis and Packard, cultural burnout can occur when there is a constant rivalry, expectations are not met, and there is a lack of community connection. To prevent cultural burnout, human service employees can participate in meetings regarding competition even though they may not have direct influence on decision making. Also outside networking with other agencies and people to understand the efforts and barriers can help with feeling a community connection within and outside the workers agency.
Factors in organizational burnout are completive environment, lack of opinion, conflict of services, and inflexible supervisory. There are various organizational methods to prevent the problem of employee burnout. Supervisors should understand