Causes, Consequences, and Prevention of Burnout Among Substance Abuse Treatment Counselors: A Rural Versus Urban Comparison

RUHRC Authors: Harp, K
Publication Date: 01/01/2013
Full Publication: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention of Burnout Among Substance Abuse Treatment Counselors: A Rural Versus Urban Comparison

Abstract

Substance abuse counselors are vulnerable to burnout, which has negative repercussions for the counselor, employing organization, and clients. However, little is known about differences in counselor burnout from the counselors’ perspective in rural versus urban treatment centers. In 2008, focus group data from 28 rural and urban counselors in a southern state was analyzed, revealing three burnout themes across all counselors: causes, consequences, and prevention. However, there were various differences between rural and urban counselors in sub-themes with only rural counselors citing office politics and low occupational prestige as causes of burnout. Only urban counselors reported responses endorsing the sub-themes of role reversal, clients trying to choose their counselors, and changing jobs as consequences of burnout. All counselors cited co-worker support, clinical supervision, and self-care as important strategies for managing burnout. In sum, context clearly matters as rural counselors cited more causes of burnout; yet, the implications of burnout are universal in that they often lead to poor quality clinical care. There is a continued need for greater understanding of addiction as a disease, which would reduce stigma, especially in rural areas, as well as increase the prestige and earning potential of the substance abuse counseling occupation.

Suggested Citation

Oser CB, Biebel EP, Pullen E, Harp KLH. Causes, Consequences, and Prevention of Burnout Among Substance Abuse Treatment Counselors: A Rural Versus Urban Comparison. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2013;45(1):17-27.