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Psychologist burnout syndrome: its causes, stages and methods of prevention

Every psychologist knows this ominous phrase, and many state. How can he protect this syndrome? How, following the example of the third samurai from the quoted parable, to continue to be an ordinary person who does not bear the terrible imprints of the profession? After all, how easy is it to survive in practical psychology without being burned to the ground?

These are questions that are always relevant for everyone, regardless of work experience, length of service, number of diplomas and certificates, or favorite methods and directions. The famous psychologist Rudolf Zagainov - a specialist who helped many of our athletes not only solve their problems, but also become champions (one of his last clients - the absolute Olympic figure skating champion Alexei Yagudin, who acquired this title after working with Zagainov for a year) - called his confession book, The Curse of the Profession. Apparently, this is no accident. Apparently, in psychology there are such pitfalls and whole reefs, which are very difficult to avoid even for venerable professionals. The psychotherapist Glenn A. Roberts, who studied the psychiatrists burnout syndrome, gives this phenomenon the following characterization: “Burnout is not a scientific construct, but a memorable and inaccurate metaphor ... although it is currently awarded diagnostic status ... undoubtedly, this is new the name of the old problem. It can be best conceptualized as a “blurred set” - the common name for the consequences of prolonged work stress and certain types of professional crisis. <...>. Burnout is not an episode, but the end result of the process of "burning to the ground." <...>. When requirements (internal and external) constantly prevail over resources (internal and external), the state of equilibrium is disturbed. Continuous or progressive imbalance inevitably leads to burnout.

Burnout is not just a result of stress, but a consequence of uncontrolled stress ”[Glenn A. Roberts. S. 119, 121, 122].

Domestic scientist VV Boyko describes the burnout syndrome as follows: “this is a psychological defense mechanism developed by a person in the form of eliminating emotions (lowering energy) in response to selected traumatic effects; also expanding the scope of negative, negative emotions and reducing positive emotions ”[cit. by: The problem of emotional burnout ... S. 5].

When a psychologist (or any other representative of helping professions) finds himself in a burned out state, then the only thing he dreams about is to get rid of clients who are bored to death by any means

(students, patients, etc.). And if this is not possible, since then there will be nobody to work with, then at least to get as far away from them as possible, to fence yourself off with a high and wide fence, preferably with barbed wire at the top. But no matter how long we talk about burnout syndrome, we must never forget that the main property of a psychologist is humanity. And to fight with burnout by eliminating this quality in oneself is to splash out a child along with water. Yes, a psychologist who cares about both the client and his problems will never burn out. But he will never be able to help the client. So, having defeated humanity in itself, having grown indifference in its place, a person ceases to be a psychologist in general: “Therefore, a psychologist must go into life and practice in order to see this cruel struggle of a man for a better life and feel his pain! And then in the personality of the psychologist necessarily and at an accelerated pace, a fundamental personal quality is formed - humanity. Without this foundation, a person cannot take place as a psychologist; without him, another person does not need him in difficult times.

And it is precisely humanity, love for a person, a sense of duty to him that will help the psychologist to survive in his difficult moment, when he will feel the whole burden of the burden of the curses of his profession ”[Zagainov. S. 570].

Researchers of the problem of altruism as a personal property of representatives of helping professions (and psychologists among them) E.V. Kitaev and T.V. Chernikova come to the same conclusion: “Altruistic behavior is expected from specialists in helping professions, and its absence causes people to be indignant, faced with the manifestation of indifference, selfishness and self-interest. At the same time, psychologists easily learn to imitate altruistic behavior, gaining first “emotional burnout”, and a little later - professional deformation ”[Kitaeva, Chernikova S. 70]. And, unfortunately, scientists as a result of their experiment came to the conclusion that even on a student’s bench, future psychologists are already on the path to emotional burnout due to an insufficient “supply” of altruism. The experiment procedure was as follows: psychology students

First, they answered questions revealing the level of altruism in relation to themselves, and then to a fellow student sitting in front. The group assessment of the “other” was considered closer to the objective value and more real, and the “about myself” indicators were attributed. “The results showed that the data on the scale of“ altruism ”among psychologists amounted to 4.1 on a 10-point scale. This is about the same as that of the control group of student managers receiving an individualistic and highly corporate profession. The indicators attributed by future psychologists on the altruism scale turned out to be higher than the real ones, and the indicators of egoism were lower. This means that they consider their classmates and future colleagues more selfish, and more caring about the welfare of other people ”[Kitaeva, Chernikova. S. 71–72].

What are the causes of burnout? Is it possible

Blame the "burnt out" psychologist that only he himself is the cause of his own condition? And is there any way to prevent the appearance and manifestations of this syndrome?

According to VV Boyko, the causes of emotional burnout are divided into two categories: external and internal. It is necessary to know about external ones in order to circumvent them if possible or to neutralize their impact on the personality. It is necessary to know about internal ones in order to prevent their inclusion, since this category of burnout sources is subject to man and he can work on them independently or with the help of his psychotherapist or supervisor.

So, the external causes provoking combustion [The problem of emotional burnout ... S. 5–8]:

1. Chronic intense psycho-emotional activity - it is associated with intensive communication, with a focused perception of partners and the impact on them. A professional working with people has to constantly reinforce various aspects of communication with emotions: actively pose and solve problems, carefully perceive, memorize and quickly interpret visual, sound and written information, quickly weigh alternatives and make decisions.

2. Destabilizing organization of activities. Its main features: fuzzy organization and labor planning, lack of equipment, poorly structured and vague information. The presence of “bureaucratic noise” in it — small details, contradictions, overstatement of the contingent norm, with which professional activity is associated (students, patients, etc.). It should be borne in mind that the destabilizing situation causes a multiple, negative effect that affects the

professional, on the subject of communication - the client, patient, etc., and then on the relationship of both parties?


3. Increased responsibility for functions and operations

- representatives of the mass professions usually work in the mode of external and internal control ... The procedural content of their activity consists in constantly entering and being in the state of the subject with which the joint activity is carried out: one needs to peer, listen, feel in it, empathize, compassion, sympathize with, anticipate his words, moods, actions, and most importantly, constantly have to take on the energy discharges of partners.

The unfavorable psychological atmosphere of professional activity is determined by two main circumstances: vertical conflict (leader - subordinate) and horizontal (colleague - colleague). “The nervous situation encourages some to waste their emotions, while others look for ways to save their mental resources” (V.D. Vid, E.I. Lozinskaya).

5. Psychologically difficult contingent with which a professional in the field of communication deals (violators of discipline, dying patients, etc.). If you deal with people, then almost daily a client comes across who “spoils your nerves”, involuntarily you begin to preempt such cases and save emotional resources, ignoring the ill-mannered, capricious, immoral, etc. people. A psychological defense mechanism has been found, but emotional detachment can be used ineptly, and then you are not included in the needs and requirements of a completely normal business communication partner. “On this basis, misunderstandings and conflict arise - emotional burning is manifested by its dysfunctional side” (V.V. Boyko).

Having examined the list of external causes of burnout proposed by Orenburg psychologists, we can come to the following conclusion: the profession of a psychologist is not only complicated by its requirements for the training and personality of a specialist, but also refers to a risk group in relation to his emotional state. And if at least two of the five reasons given that can be completely eliminated - (2nd and 4th) cease to interfere with the psychologist's normal functioning in the profession, then this will already be a rather big step towards the problem of burnout to full-fledged professional and personal implementation psychologist. The remaining three reasons, obviously, are inalienable companions of the psychologist's activity itself as a specialist helping people. It is he who needs

? And the consequence of this, naturally, will be an undesirable result of their interaction: mutual dissatisfaction, problem solving, which, in turn, will deepen the burnout of the psychologist and the client’s crisis.

all kinds of personal psychotherapy and supervision, as well as the ability to “work out”, ventilate your feelings and emotions in an out-of-consultation space. In the West, this idea has long become a common place for written and unwritten professional psychological codes. I would like to believe that in Russia they will soon come to this.

The following list of causes of burnout includes the intrapersonal problems of the psychologist, entailing the appearance of this syndrome.

1. The tendency to emotional rigidity - emotional burning occurs faster in those who are less reactive and receptive, more emotionally restrained, and slower in impulsive people with mobile nervous processes.

2. Intensive perception and experiencing of the circumstances of professional activity - this phenomenon occurs in people with increased responsibility for the assigned work, who surrender to the case without a trace. Each stressful case from practice leaves a deep imprint on the soul, gradually depleting emotional and energy resources, therefore, there is a need to restore them or protect them, resorting to certain methods of psychological defense. So, some experts after some time change the profile of work and even the profession. It happens that professionals alternate periods of intense interiorization and psychological defense ...

3. Weak motivation of emotional return in professional activity has two aspects. Firstly, a professional in the field of communication does not consider it necessary or for some reason not interested in showing complicity and empathy with the subject for his activities. The corresponding mentality stimulates not only emotional combustion, but also its extreme forms - indifference, spiritual callousness. Secondly, a person does not know how to reward himself for the empathy and complicity shown in relation to subjects of professional activity. He supports the system of self-esteem by other means - material or positional achievements. Altruistic emotional return for such a person does not mean anything, and he does not need it, does not feel satisfaction from it. Another thing is a person with altruistic values, for which it is important to help and empathize with others, and she experiences the loss of emotionality in communication as an indicator of moral loss, as the loss of humanity.

Let us turn to illustrating the results of the last of the listed reasons for burnout to the professional folklore of psychologists - psychological jokes (since folklore is an element of public consciousness that demonstrates the views, beliefs, habits, behaviors inherent in the people who created it and crystallized over time, we assume that in these

jokes focused the process of self-knowledge and introspection of the entire psychological "people"):

Answering Machine:

“Welcome to the emergency psychological help hotline! If you are too impulsive - quickly press 1. several times. If you feel addicted - ask someone to press 2. If you feel a lot of personalities in yourself - press 3, 4, 5 and 6. If you have a persecution mania, we know who you are and what you want, just don’t go anywhere, but for now we will track your call. If you are a schizophrenic, listen carefully, and a quiet voice will tell you which digit to press. If you are depressed, it doesn’t matter what you press ... nobody will answer anyway. ” If this became an anecdote, then at least thoughts of such psychologists are visited. And if such thoughts take place, then they have their own reasons. In this way, the psychologist is protected from the troubles, misfortunes and sufferings surrounding him day after day. However, can a psychologist afford such protection?

Here is what R. Zagainov writes about this: “... I admit: everything is as it is - there is less love in me!

You can justify yourself by blaming the same lesions and related experiences, individual people who disappointed in yourself and something else, in my personality changes. But the main thing is to blame for myself - I made these tragic changes in myself, I became less able to love a person, and this led to the fact that they began to need me less than in those happy years of mine! ” (italics R.Z.) [Zagainov. S. 8]. We conclude that deformation in the direction of equipoise is harmful not only to the clients of the psychologist, but also to himself as a professional and as a person.

And one more internal cause of emotional burnout is moral defects and disorganization of the psychologist’s personality.

“Perhaps the professional had a moral flaw even before he began to work with people or acquired it in the process of activity. This is due to the inability to use such moral categories as conscience, virtue, decency, honesty, and the like in interactions with business partners. Moral disorganization is caused by the inability to distinguish good from bad, good from the harm done to a person. In the presence of these conditions, the formation of emotional combustion is facilitated, the likelihood of indifference to the subject of activity and apathy to fulfilled duties increases ”[The problem of emotional burnout ... S. 7-8]. This cause of burnout can be eradicated with great difficulty. And therefore, in our opinion, it is necessary to select students for faculties of a psychological specialty not only according to the intellectual criterion

(like any other specialty), but also by personal characteristics. The justification of this measure lies in the fact that it is the personality of the psychologist, as proved by the whole of this article, that is his working tool. And if this tool is faulty, no one can vouch for the result of applying it to human destinies and souls.
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