A severe and lasting effect of the pandemic has been the emotional toll it’s taken on behavioral health specialists. Many were unprepared to be the pillars of strength through a global pandemic, yet when COVID-19 shook the world, our behavioral health technicians answered the call to action. Unfortunately, many are now paying the price. What happens when the psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and social workers we rely on for mental health care go through burnout themselves? Here we’ll review the causes, signs, and ways to prevent burnout in mental health professionals.
The rates of burnout in mental health professionals have increased in recent years. Across several studies, it’s been found that 21% to 67% of mental health workers have experienced high levels of burnout.1
In a study of 151 community mental health employees in Northern California, 54% were found to have experienced high emotional exhaustion, and 38% reported high depersonalization rates. However, most of these employees also reported high levels of personal accomplishment.
Furthermore, in another survey of 751 respondents, 36% scored in the high range of emotional exhaustion. 18% of the sample also endorsed the statement, “I currently have problems with burnout”.
Outside of the U.S., specifically in the U.K., a survey of 71 forensic mental health workers found that 54% reported high rates of emotional exhaustion. Before this study, another reported a range of 21% to 48% of general mental health workers as having high emotional exhaustion.
All this is to say that mental health worker burnout is common in various regions around the world, not just in the U.S. But what causes burnout, and what are some ways we can catch and prevent it?
Burnout is the result of excessive and prolonged emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion and stress. It occurs when a person feels emotionally and physically drained and unable to keep up with life’s constant demands.
Every professional and their loved ones should be aware of the potential for burnout. Burnout is a form of exhaustion caused by constantly feeling overwhelmed or “swamped.” Burnout can occur in various situations, such as at work, home, and school.
Under stressful work conditions, counselors using poor coping skills may become discouraged, irritated, frustrated, and confused, which can greatly impact their work performance and their patients. There are multiple stages of burnout, including enthusiasm (a tendency to be overly available), stagnation (when personal discontent begins to surface), frustration (they become less bored, tolerant, and sympathetic), and apathy (depression and listlessness).
Common causes of burnout in therapists, counselors, psychologists, and other mental health workers include:
While there are many causes of burnout, one of the most common is work. Unfortunately, many therapists and mental health specialists attempt to cope with burnout by ignoring it, which can further impact their work performance. This can create a stressful cycle that may only lead to further distress.
It’s important to remember that mental health specialists need help, too. Our residential mental health program in Boca can help you or a loved one cope with burnout and other psychological struggles. With a team of experienced specialists, you’ll be working with professionals who understand what you’re going through.
A red flag of therapist burnout is when the individual begins to dread client sessions, finds reasons to cancel, shows up late to sessions, or begins to daydream during sessions with professionals.
Other common signs of mental health counselor burnout include:
Burnout can be tough to cope with, but fortunately, there are plenty of ways to prevent it from happening. Below are some strategies that can help prevent mental health burnout:
Mental health specialists need just as much support as their patients. Whether you need counseling and support for burnout or treatment for a mental illness, our mental illness treatment in Boca can help. Banyan Mental Health offers treatment for depression, anxiety, OCD, and more.
Call us today at 888-280-4763 for more information about our services and how to get started.