School Counselors’ Perceived Stress, Burnout, and Job Satisfaction

Added June 11, 2018

School counselors work in a rewarding yet physically and emotionally demanding field that potentially leads to experiences of stress, burnout, and job dissatisfaction. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationships among perceived stress, burnout, and job dissatisfaction among practicing school counselors. Although stress and burnout are conceptually different, the authors of this study found that school counselors who experienced stress were likely to experience burnout as well. Moreover, the findings indicated that greater levels of stress and burnout were related to decreased levels of job satisfaction among school counselors. In addition, novice school counselors with fewer years in the school counseling field reported greater perceived stress and burnout compared to more experienced school counselors. The authors also found that case load size as well as school level settings did not impact perceived stress, burnout, and job satisfaction among school counselors, and due to discrepancies between the current study’s results and previous research, the authors suggested that further exploration is warranted to understand these specific relationships. Overall, burnout mediated stress and job satisfaction, meaning that burnout explained how stress negatively impacts school counselors’ job satisfaction.

Since stress and burnout are realistic experiences of practicing school counselors, the authors suggested several practical preventative and reactive measures and interventions to support school counselors’ training and practice. First, school counselors can engage in formal and informal self-assessment practices to increase awareness of their perceived levels of stress, such as the Professional Quality of Life scale (Stamm, 2010); the Wellness Starfish (Blount & Mullen, 2015); structured activities, as discussed by Young and Lambie (2007); the Five Factor Wellness Inventory (5F-Wel, Myers & Sweeney, 2005); and the Helping Professional Wellness Discrepancy Scale (HPWDS, Blount & Lambie, 2017). Using the information gained from the self-assessments, school counselors can seek and participate in individual and group-based self-care and wellness activities. Moreover, counselor educators can model self-care and wellness strategies as well as integrate wellness activities and techniques into the course curriculum. Next, the authors suggested that school counselors develop a personal model of wellness, which can be a unique way for school counselors to personally define wellness and deliberately practice and remain accountable to integrating wellness in their ongoing professional practice.

Third, the authors recommended that school counselors utilize career-sustaining behaviors to improve job satisfaction experiences during the work day, including supervision and scheduled breaks. Additional career-sustaining behaviors include problem-focused coping, which is practically targeting stressors through goal setting, time management, and seeking social support. Finally, because the authors of this study found that school counselors’ stress and job satisfaction were mediated by burnout, the authors clarified that stress is a natural aspect of the school counseling profession and other professions, and some level of stress may be appropriate. However, it is more important that school counselors understand how to proactively and reactively manage stressful experiences, and school counselors should find effective ways to cope in response to the demands of the profession.

Overall, the experiences of stress and burnout among school counselors are real and reoccurring, School counselors are encouraged to take proactive measures to self-assess for and mitigate potential stress and burnout. In addition, counselor educators can introduce and model appropriate self-care and wellness strategies so that school counseling trainees can deliberately develop best practices of self-care and wellness prior to entry into the profession.

Patrick R. Mullen, PhD, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA; Ashley J. Blount, PhD, University of Nebraska Omaha; Glenn W. Lambie, PhD, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL; Nancy Chae, College of William and Mary.


Patrick R. Mullen, PhD, Ashley J. Blount, PhD, Glenn W. Lambic, PhD, Nancy Chae