Burnout in two-year college counselors

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Several factors, such as changing academic environmental conditions and the naturé of human service work, can be stressful for two-year college counselors. If stress from these sources goes unrelieved for prolonged periods, burnout can result. Although the literature suggests that social support can be an effective means of coping with burnout, studies are few and scattered among different occupational groups.

The purpose of this study was to examine the influence that social support variables (spouse/confidant, friends, co-workers, and supervisors) had on burnout in two-year college counselors. In addition, several job-related and demographic variables, found to be related to burnout in previous studies, were also used for this study. A randomly selected group of counselors employed at two-year colleges throughout the United States during the 1987-88 school year were surveyed.

Descriptive data were computed on all the variables in this study. The descriptive statistics for burnout found only 18 counselors out of 507 experiencing high level of burnout as defined by Maslach (high scores on the emotional exhaustion subscale, and depersonalization accomplishment subscale). This somewhat surprising finding negated the possibility of trying to predict burnout by Maslach's definition. Therefore, attention was redirected at predicting scores for each of the three burnout subscales (emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a recoded composite burnout score).

Major findings were: (a) age was a significant predictor of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and the composite burnout score; (b) emotional exhaustion decreased when opportunities for time-out increased and co-worker support, supervisor support, and total support increased; (c) depersonalization and burnout decreased when the number of full-time equivalent counselors increased and co-worker support, supervisor support, and total support increased; (d) personal accomplishment increased when counseling responsibilities increased and spouse/confidant support and total support increased.