Compassion Satisfaction, Compassion Fatigue, and Burnout: A Survey of CACREP Counseling Interns' Perceptions of Wellness
Counselor wellness is an important concept that can be taught in counselor education programs. Nonetheless, counseling interns tend to be at a higher risk for impairment issues due to stressors related to being novice counselors. The stress of engaging in therapeutic relationships with clients, lack of clinical experience, idealistic expectations of the profession, and personal issues can hinder their wellness. It is the responsibility of CACREP programs to incorporate wellness education into counselor training, which includes impairment topics such as compassion fatigue and burnout. The lack of this essential education can impede counseling interns' professional growth; create barriers within the therapeutic relationship, and raises questions about programs' gatekeeping policies.
This study surveyed 68 counseling interns of 20 CACREP programs to determine: a) their levels of compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, and burnout as measured by the Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL) and, b) their perceptions of their programs' wellness curriculum and their knowledge of programs' nonacademic and retention policies as measured by The Counseling Interns' Perceptions of Wellness Survey (CIPW). Furthermore, this study examined the relationship between interns' perceptions of wellness and their levels of compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, and burnout. Descriptive and correlational statistics, and a MANOVA analysis were conducted to answer the research questions.
The results demonstrate that a percentage of counseling interns were at a risk for compassion fatigue and burnout while providing therapeutic services to clients. Also, there were interns with low levels of compassion satisfaction. Additionally, there were interns who believed their programs were not educating them about counselor wellness and who were not knowledgeable of their programs' gatekeeping policies. There were positive relationships between interns' perceptions of their programs' wellness education and compassion satisfaction, and between compassion fatigue and burnout. There were negative relationships between wellness education and burnout, and compassion satisfaction and burnout.
The results of this study suggest that counselor impairment occurs during training. Likewise, this study has reinforced the need to educate counseling students about impairment topics and wellness strategies. Further results suggest that counselor education programs need to strengthen and restructure gatekeeping policies during counselor training.