Quomodo Curantis Eget Solacio: Investigating Pandemic Era Counselor Wellness, Professional Quality of Life and COVID Stress in the United States

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


In December 2019, a novel version of the SARS virus, called SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), emerged in Wuhan, Hubei Province of China. By mid-March of 2020, the United States had begun the process of the shutting down and quarantining to minimize the spread of the virus. In conjunction with a dramatic shift in professional experiences, counselors would also be exposed to greater stressors associated with COVID-19 while continuing work as shadowed "frontline" workers tending to the surge of those seeking mental health care resulting from increasing anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health conditions. However, despite the emerging information regarding the professional quality of life (ProQOL) and wellness of "frontline workers" there was little evidence emanating related to how the stressors of COVID-19 were impacting counselors. Compassion fatigue (CF), burnout and secondary traumatic stress (STS) are occupational hazards threatening counselors resulting from exposure to trauma, interpersonal stress and vocational demand. These phenomena have been extensively researched among counselors and demonstrate positive relationships between counselors' experiences of stress and higher levels of negative compassion outcomes. Similarly, wellness has been empirically supported as a countermeasure to these professional threats, serving to minimize the effects of burnout, CF and STS by improving the internal resiliency of counselors while simultaneously improving experiences of compassion satisfaction (CS). However, aside from conceptual speculation and preliminary investigation into counselor coping patterns, little evidence has surfaced demonstrating what relationship exists between counselor wellness and the unique stressors related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This study used quantitative methodology to analyze a cross-sectional survey of a national sample of counselors in the United States (N = 318) that assessed for counselor wellness, ProQOL and reported, COVID-19 related stress. This investigation examined how counselor wellness and ProQOL differs during a later stage of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to previous samples, how specific counselor demographics related to COVID-19 stress appraisal and how counselor reports of COVID-19 related stress relates to their wellness and ProQOL. Results indicate a significant difference between counselor reports of wellness and ProQOL compared to previous investigations, with a pattern of this sample producing lower wellness and CS scores and higher burnout and STS scores. Additionally, significant relationships between counselor gender and racial identities and COVID-19 related stress were found. Lastly, results indicate significant, negative relationships between reported COVID-19 stress and multiple aspects of wellness, while significant, positive relationships were found between reported COVID-19 stress and both burnout and STS. The findings of this investigation will contribute to the foundational insight into how counselor reports of COVID-19 related stress relates to their wellness and ProQOL.



burnout, compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, COVID-19, wellness, bioecological systems