Caregiver Stress & Burnout
Christine Maslach (2003) described burnout as:
“a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who do ‘people-work’ of some kind.” When we notice ourselves distancing emotionally from our clients, seeing them as their diagnosis rather than as individuals, and feeling that there is little we can do to impact the situation, no matter what we try – we may be sizzling our way toward burnout.
I believe that caregivers such as doulas, counsellors, social workers, medical clinicians, and frontline support staff of all varieties are actually more at risk of burnout and trauma than their clients. Not only do these individuals bear actual or virtual witness to countless events over time, they often firmly hold a passion-led vision of social justice around what “should” be, as opposed to what “is.” Caregivers bump into the reality-versus-values dilemma so often in their work as to feel psychically bruised.
Workers in fields with tight deadlines, chronic stress, and high-impact results such as lawyers and accountants often experience burnout, as well. The intensity of internships in these and similar fields can initiate the vulnerability to burnout, and years of stress can fan those flames.
After working in frontline and management roles for many years in rape/crisis care, addiction and mental health support for recently-homeless women and families, and family violence treatment/prevention and recovery, I have had an interest (and occasional experience!) in burnout and vicarious trauma. I am consistently intrigued by the subtle ways that this emotional tug-of-war impacts our work. I believe that caregivers being care receivers is crucial to providing ethical care.
I am covered by a variety of professional organizations to address these and similar concerns in their fields. Please contact with me to learn more.