Burnout And Technical College Counselors Research Proposal

Length: 25 pages Sources: 25 Subject: Psychology Type: Research Proposal Paper: #98439444 Related Topics: Procrastination, School Counselor, Technical Writing, Ulcer
Excerpt from Research Proposal :

The assumption here is that counselor burnout may be heightened as a result of the diversity of students who attend post secondary educational institutions, and the variety of services the 2-year postsecondary counselors must provide to these students. This assumption is congruent with the findings of a study by Wilkerson and Bellini (2006) who advise, "Professional school counselors are asked to perform multiple duties as part of their daily work. Some of these duties match the descriptions set forth by national standards for school counseling programs, whereas others do not" (p. 440).

Consequently, school counselors are required to formulate decisions on a daily basis concerning the best way to perform their jobs (Wilkerson & Bellini). Not surprisingly, many school counselors are overwhelmed by these constantly changing working conditions and requirements, and a number of counselors experience high levels of stress as a result. Because the connection between high levels of stress in the workplace and burnout are well documented, these findings represent issues of special concern because of the potential adverse impact on counselors' mental and physical well-being. Moreover, stress has also been associated with burnout (Wilkerson & Bellini). Consequently, heightened levels of stress and burnout can result in ineffective job performance, exhaustion, physical complaints, anxiety, depression, and even increased incidences of substance abuse (Wilkerson & Bellini). There is concern, too, that as stress increases, not only do school counselors experience negative consequences, so too do those with whom they work and the students they counsel.


The literature on postsecondary education counselors indicates that people who become counselors typically enter the profession due to an intrinsic desire to help people through academic, social, and personal issues, and usually believe that their work is meaningful and helpful Murray, 1987, and Maslach, 2003). New counselors are often enthusiastic and come with innovative ideas and an abundance of energy, however, after twenty years, and sometimes with in 5 or 10 years of providing counseling services to large numbers of diverse and demanding students, many counselors find themselves with little tolerance for routine and exhausting work with students (Gmelch, Wilke, and Lovrich, 1983). The level of service and/or the role the counselor performs is contingent upon the nature and size of the educational institution in which they are employed (Dean, 2000).

Counselors' primary duties within 2-year colleges include providing career counseling and academic advising; they may also perform crisis intervention, personal counseling (Craig and Norton, 2000) other miscellaneous tasks. These services are provided to a student population that quite often includes students who may be academically unprepared with a history of academic failures. Students may also be returning to college after many years, with or without a high school diploma or equivalent credential. Many of these students are first-generation, ethnic minorities, and initially lack the academic support system necessary to succeed (Davis and Humphrey, 2000; Ray and Altekruse, 2000).

The aforementioned is especially relevant to counselors working at 2-year colleges because fifty percent of students enrolled in higher education attend two-year community colleges (Durodoye, Harris, & Bolden, 2000). For instance, Kim (2002) emphasizes that, "Community colleges enroll almost one half of all undergraduates in the United States each fall. Not surprisingly, students attend community colleges to pursue a variety of educational objectives, including academic transfer, vocational-technical education, remedial and continuing education, and



Moreover, about 50% of all African-American, Native-American, and Hispanic college students enroll at community colleges and the student population in these 2-year institutions are typically comprised of commuter students, of which a significant number attend on a part-time basis (Kim). In addition, nearly one-half (46%) of first-time students in community colleges enroll on a part-time basis; by contrast, just 11% of first-time students attending public four-year institutions enroll on a part-time basis (Kim). Beyond these fundamental differences between students in 2-year and 4-year educational institutions, more than a third (35%) of first-time enrollees in community colleges work full time while just 11% of their counterparts enrolling in four-year institutions do so (Kim). The increase in the percentages of part-time students entering community colleges can be attributed to many factors, including the increase in students who are employed, the increase in women attending college, and a decrease in the number of 18-year-old students in recent years; as a result, just under half (46%) of the community college student population in the United States is 25 years of age or older, and the average student age in the community college is 29 years (Kim). Taken together, it is apparent that community colleges in the United States provide access to higher education to a broader range of students than would be found at most four-year educational institutions today (Kim).

Like many other professions that involve stressful working conditions, it is clear how school counselors can become physically and mentally exhausted or "burned out" upon examination of their extensive work responsibilities, diverse student population and work environment (Maslach, 2003). According to Heath and Sheen (2005), "Every profession has some degree of stress. Deadlines for projects, daily demands, personal and professional responsibilities, conflicts with coworkers, and an increasing emphasis on accountability all add to an individual's stress" (p. 152). Furthermore, while this construct of burnout is not a new term; however, it is layered with complexities, nuances of application or interpretation that makes its precise use difficult in some cases. The condition of burnout in general, though, can spell the difference between successful and effective college counselors and those that either leave the educational field altogether or become increasingly ineffective while they remain in the counseling profession. On the one hand, community college counselors must be aware of the unique needs of the increasingly diverse population they serve and provide them with broad range of tools that they can use to help students negotiate their complex circumstances (Kim, 2002); on the other hand, these challenges have assumed some truly formidable levels in recent years and these issues are discussed further below.

Statement of the Problem

Burnout has been examined in other counseling professions such as school counselors (Butler and Constantine, 2005), rehabilitation counselors (Layne, Hohenshil, & Singh, 2004), school psychologists (Miles & Chittooraan, 2001), and mental health and substance abuse counselors (Osborne, 2004), there has yet to be a study dedicated to counselors in a technical colleges. Therefore, by understanding the specific aspects of burnout that occur in counselors in the technical colleges in general and those in the Wisconsin Technical College System in particular, it will be possible to guide the counseling supervisors in identifying and supporting appropriate professional development opportunities for intervention and prevention of burnout, which can be reasonably expected to lead to improved service to the students.

Community and technical college counseling environments promote more of a risk of burnout than other college or university environments (Durodoye, Harris, & Bolden, 2000). This study will gather more information about the prevalence of burnout experienced by certified counselors in the Wisconsin Technical College System; the relationship between selected demographics (age, gender, level of education, years of counseling experience, average number of hours per week worked above contracted hours and the number of professional development activities completed per year) and burnout among this population; the most frequently identified stress related issue(s) or situation(s) experienced by this group; and, the relationship between their own perception of their counseling role and level of burnout. Finding the answers to these questions will allow for a clearer picture of prevalence and impact of burnout has on these counselors working in the Wisconsin Technical College System. However, if this topic is not studied the literature on burnout as it relates to counselors in all educational settings would continue to be incomplete. Also, counseling services in the Wisconsin Technical College System may not obtain the necessary information for counseling supervisors to develop professional development strategies in order to prevent and intervene with those counselors experiencing burnout. Lastly, without the information this study could provide students may receive less than adequate counseling services because of an impaired counselor.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is threefold; first, to determine the prevalence of burnout experienced by certified counselors in the WTCS; second, to determine the most frequently occurring stressful issues or situations experienced by certified counselors in the WTCS; and third, to examine the relationship between selected demographics and perceived levels of burnout. The ability to identify and quantify these characteristics is important for the technical colleges because of the role the counselor performs. In most cases, counselors are the first contact for new students and a frequent contact for continuing students. Therefore, given the consequences of burnout, counselors who are experiencing burnout are at risk of providing less than quality services to students (Renjilian, Baum, & Landry 1998; Renjilian & Stites, 2002). By conducting this study, the discoveries may identify characteristics that could be used to develop interventions to help combat counselor burnout and possibly prevent impaired service.…

Sources Used in Documents:

cited in Angerer, 2003). Unfortunately, it would seem that most helping professionals, including counselors, possess characteristics which predisposed them to this construct. For example, Lambie notes that, "Counselors may have increased susceptibility to burnout because of their training to be empathic which is essential to the formation of a therapeutic relationship. In fact, research has found counselor empathy to account for two thirds of the variance in supporting clients' positive behavioral change" (p. 32). The ability to remain empathic to the plights and challenges typically being experienced by students in community colleges is complicated by the enormous diversity that is increasingly characterizing these institutions, of course, but all helping professionals run the risk of becoming burned out while performing their responsibilities by virtue of their empathic sharing. In this regard, Lambie emphasizes that, "Empathy helps counselors understand the client's experience, but at the same time, a counselor may experience the emotional pain of multiple traumatized clients. Empathy is a double-edged sword; it is simultaneously your greatest asset and a point of real vulnerability; therefore, a fundamental skill of effective counselors, being empathic, may place counselors at high risk for burnout" (p. 33).

Citing the alarming results of a national survey of counselors that indicated that incidence may be almost 40%, Lambie also emphasizes that although all professions involve some degree of stress, counselors and other human service providers are at higher risk of burnout compared to other professionals. For example, this author notes that, "Counseling professionals are often in close contact with people who are in pain and distress. This continuous exposure to others' despair, combined with rare opportunities to share the benefits of clients' successes, heightens counselors' risk for burnout" (Lambie, p. 34). Other authorities confirm the incidence of burnout among educators, and cite even higher rates than the foregoing estimate. For instance, Cheek, Bradley and Lan (2003) report that, "Based on several international studies, approximately 60% to 70% of all teachers repeatedly show symptoms of stress, and a minimum of 30% of all educators show distinct symptoms of burnout" (p. 204). Indeed, a study by Lumsden (1998) determined that overall teacher morale was sufficiently severe that fully 40% of the educators who were surveyed indicated they would not choose teaching again as a career, and far more than half (57%) remained undecided at the time concerning ending their teaching career, were actively making plans to leave teaching, or would opt to leave the teaching field in the event a superior opportunity presented itself.

There are some other qualities that typify school counselors that may predispose them to becoming burned out over the course of time (some quicker than others, of course), but which may reasonably be expected to adversely effect the ability of school counselors to maintain their effectiveness in the workplace. For instance, Lambie concludes that, "Common counselor qualities of being selfless (i.e., putting others first), working long hours, and doing whatever it takes to help a client place them at higher susceptibility to burnout. As a result, counselors may themselves need assistance in dealing with the emotional pressures of their work" (p. 34).

Counselors and Characteristics of Burnout


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