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It is well-accepted that occupational hazards are endemic to the profession of psychology and that psychologists bring both strengths and vulnerabilities to their choice of career. Given the pressures faced by psychologists in contemporary society, how can we most effectively meet our ethical obligation to maintain competence throughout our professional life span in order to provide high quality care to those we serve? In this article, we propose to expand the current conceptualization of psychologist functioning as embodied in the widely promulgated stress-distress continuum. Through the incorporation of a positive dimension, we can envision the potential for psychologists to spiral up via their practice of enhanced self-care. Four foundational principles are interwoven throughout our consideration of effective self-care for psychologists: an emphasis on flourishing (rather than merely surviving), intentionality, an awareness of reciprocity in care of self and others and the benefits of integrating self-care into our daily practices and routines, rather than being added onto existing personal and professional obligations. A review of the literature on psychologist self-care strategies, healthy lifestyles, mindfulness, acceptance-based therapies, and positive psychology informs our endorsement of mindfulness-based positive principles and practice (MPPP's) for psychologists. These MPPP's are broadly conceptualized as the how of effective self-care that supports the what (as in what to do) in this realm. Finally, we envision a future in which effective self-care embedded in MPPP's is truly valued, supported and promoted by the profession in a manner that complements and sustains our ongoing well-being and professional competence. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Ethics, Self-Care and Well-Being for Psychologists:
Reenvisioning the Stress-Distress Continuum
Erica H. Wise
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Matthew A. Hersh
Somerville, Massachusetts
Clare M. Gibson
Veterans Affairs Maryland Health Care System
It is well-accepted that occupational hazards are endemic to the profession of psychology and that
psychologists bring both strengths and vulnerabilities to their choice of career. Given the pressures faced
by psychologists in contemporary society, how can we most effectively meet our ethical obligation to
maintain competence throughout our professional life span in order to provide high quality care to those
we serve? In this article, we propose to expand the current conceptualization of psychologist functioning
as embodied in the widely promulgated stress-distress continuum. Through the incorporation of a positive
dimension, we can envision the potential for psychologists to spiral up via their practice of enhanced
self-care. Four foundational principles are interwoven throughout our consideration of effective self-care
for psychologists: an emphasis on flourishing (rather than merely surviving), intentionality, an awareness
of reciprocity in care of self and others and the benefits of integrating self-care into our daily practices
and routines, rather than being added onto existing personal and professional obligations. A review of the
literature on psychologist self-care strategies, healthy lifestyles, mindfulness, acceptance-based therapies,
and positive psychology informs our endorsement of mindfulness-based positive principles and practice
(MPPP’s) for psychologists. These MPPP’s are broadly conceptualized as the how of effective self-care
that supports the what (as in what to do) in this realm. Finally, we envision a future in which effective
self-care embedded in MPPP’s is truly valued, supported and promoted by the profession in a manner that
complements and sustains our ongoing well-being and professional competence.
Keywords: ethics, competence, well-being, self-care, mindfulness
As professional psychologists, we are committed to caring for
others and derive great satisfaction from these activities. However,
is this satisfaction sufficient—in and of itself—to sustain us
throughout a professional career? As a profession we tend to
neglect the importance of creating a sustainable balance between
caring for our clients and caring for ourselves. The wisdom tradi-
tions have long recognized the interrelatedness of care for the self
and care for the other. The oft-repeated 2,000-year-old quotation
attributed to Rabbi Hillel the Elder, effectively captures this es-
sential dialectic: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I
am only for myself, what am I? And, if not now, when?”
In this article we will discuss how psychologists can be for
themselves as well as for their clients. We believe that the time has
come for us to take an honest, compassionate, and unflinching look
at the role of self-care and well-being in professional psychology.
In this article, which is based in part on a continuing education
workshop developed by the first author (Wise & Gibson, 2012),
we make the case that self-care is an ethical imperative as it relates
to competence. We will review the theoretical and research liter-
ature on psychologist vulnerabilities and propose a positive dimen-
sion to the traditional stress-distress continuum. In addition, we
will outline a comprehensive approach to self-care for psycholo-
This article was published Online First August 27, 2012.
ERICA H. WISE received her PhD in clinical psychology from Southern
Illinois University at Carbondale. She is director of the psychology training
clinic and clinical professor in the department of psychology at University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her professional interests include pro-
fessional education and training and the integration of ethics, diversity and
self-care into academic and professional practice settings.
MATTHEW A. HERSH received his PhD in clinical psychology from Uni-
versity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He maintains an independent
practice in Somerville, MA, engaging in mindfulness- and acceptance-
based psychotherapy for anxiety and mood difficulties. He also consults to
organizations to facilitate participants’ stress management, self-care, and
well-being. His research interests include mindfulness therapies, contem-
porary psychotherapy issues, and mind–body wellness.
CLARE MARKS GIBSON completed her doctoral studies at the University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an internship with the Veterans
Affairs Maryland Health Care System. She will be starting a postdoc-
toral fellowship in psychosocial rehabilitation at the Veterans Affairs
Connecticut Health Care System. She has written on the topic of
self-care in clinical psychology graduate students and spoken at na-
tional conferences and local workshops.
WE THANK our colleagues, Meredith J. Mayer and Steven D. Mullinix,
for their many contributions to our conceptualization of psychologist
self-care and Jean A. Carter for her invaluable editorial assistance.
H. Wise, Department of Psychology, CB #3270, University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3270. E-mail: ewise@
Professional Psychology: Research and Practice © 2012 American Psychological Association
2012, Vol. 43, No. 5, 487–494 0735-7028/12/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0029446
gists based on mindfulness practices, values-oriented acceptance-
based therapies, and positive psychology. As you read this article,
we encourage you to be mindful of the interplay between care of
the self and care of the other.As we mentor graduate students,
interns, and early career psychologists, it is important to encourage
them to care for and sustain themselves as they enact their deep
commitment to becoming dedicated and competent professional
psychologists. As suggested by Rabbi Hillel, we believe that
caring for ourselves and others is an inherently integrated and
reciprocal process. And—as asked so cogently by Rabbi Hillel—
“if not now, when?”
Foundational Principles
As we envision a positive dimension to the stress-distress con-
tinuum, we believe that effective self-care for psychologists must
be broadly conceived and oriented toward sustainability and work-
ability. To assist psychologists in integrating ongoing attitudes and
practices that support well-being and self-care, we suggest four
foundational principles. First is the notion of surviving versus
flourishing (Keyes, 2002). When we focus on surviving, we inad-
vertently maintain a barely good enough status quo and fixate on
preventing the negative. In contrast, when we aspire to flourish,we
invite a broader array of possibilities into our personal and pro-
fessional lives, and we emphasize resilience-building attitudes and
practices that reflect an overarching positive orientation. Second is
the act of intentionally choosing our self-care plan over time and
being willing to change our attitudes and practices if (or as) they
become unworkable. Third is the concept alluded to above that we
have termed reciprocity, or the process of dynamic exchange of
beneficial lifestyle attitudes and practices between psychologist
and client. Fourth, we encourage the use of self-care strategies that
are integrated into rather than added onto our already busy and
stressful lives. These foundational principles are integrated and
interwoven throughout our discussion of mindfulness-based prac-
tices and principles (MPPPs).
Is Self-Care an Ethical Imperative?
Positive, intentional, integrated, and sustainable self-care is
clearly important. But is self-care also an ethical obligation? Self-
care—in the sense of enhancing positive well-being—is not di-
rectly addressed in the American Psychological Association
(APA) Ethics Code (APA, 2002). Competence, however, is an
essential ethical obligation and provides a critical link between
ethics and self-care. In the enforceable sections of the code,
Section 2 contains the ethical standards that relate to competence.
Standard 2.01, Boundaries of Competence (a) states the basic
expectation that Psychologists provide services, teach, and conduct
research with populations and in areas only within the boundaries
of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised
experience, consultation, study, or professional experience”(APA,
2002, p. 1063, emphasis added). Standard 2.03, Maintaining Com-
petence, reminds us that “Psychologists undertake ongoing efforts
to develop and maintain their competence” (APA, 2002, p. 1064,
emphasis added). The importance of competence and the critical
role of continuing professional development have been increas-
ingly recognized and promulgated in our field in recent years (e.g.,
Fouad et al., 2009;Roberts, Borden, Christiansen, & Lopez, 2005;
Wise et al., 2010).
The last sentence of General Principle A: Beneficence and
Nonmaleficence captures an essential component of the interface
between competence and personal wellness: “Psychologists strive
to be aware of the possible effect of their own physical and mental
health on their ability to help those with whom they work” (APA,
2002, p. 1063). Standard 2.06, Personal Problems and Conflicts, is
clearly focused on the potential negative impact that personal
problems may have on professional competence and on protecting
those with whom we work. In contrast, expanding the notion of
ongoing efforts as currently delineated in Standard 2.03 to include
a focus on personal wellness, self-care, and functioning at the
positive end of the stress-distress continuum would have strong
theoretical and empirical support.
The Impact of Stress on Professional Functioning
How do personal problems and stress impact professional func-
tioning? The stress-distress-impairment-improper behavior contin-
uum proposed by the APA Board of Professional Affairs Advisory
Committee on Colleague Assistance (ACCA; n.d.) provides a
robust model for conceptualizing the progressive downward spiral
that can occur if stress is not effectively managed. In this model,
stress is broadly defined as our body’s reaction to demands that are
placed on it that are generated from either internal (e.g., self-
expectations) or external (e.g., work-related) sources and distress
as the subjective state of reacting to either internal or external
stress that may also be triggered by reactions to past unresolved
events. Impairment refers to an objective change in the psycholo-
gist’s professional functioning that may result in ineffective ser-
vices or cause harm to those with whom we work. Examples of
impairment include being late for appointments or failing to return
phone calls or to complete reports in a timely manner. Improper
behavior refers to professional behaviors that clearly cross ethical
boundaries and constitute professional misconduct. Examples of
improper behavior include sexual or fiscal improprieties with
A limitation of this model is that it starts at neutral and spirals
down. As we incorporate the tenets of positive psychology and
mindfulness-based principles and practice, we envision a positive
dimension to the continuum and recognize the potential to start at
neutral and spiral up. We propose that self-care supported by
MPPPs can enhance psychologists’ functioning and also serve to
greatly reduce the likelihood of progression through the stages
outlined above. Although we fully appreciate the importance of
acknowledging the potential for negative professional outcomes
and the essential role of colleague assistance programs in prevent-
ing harm to the public, our careers, and ourselves, we hope to also
inspire psychologists to aim for the positive end of the continuum.
Personal Vulnerabilities and Professional Hazards for
Personal vulnerabilities and professional hazards are endemic to
our profession. In our endorsement of a dialectical perspective we
recognize that psychologists’ vulnerabilities may also be strengths
just as the professional hazards may also be benefits. In an intrigu-
ing series on choosing psychotherapy as a career, Farber, Manev-
ich, Metzger, and Saypol (2005) provided an overview of the
common themes that characterize the psychotherapist career path
linked to the personal narratives of eight prominent professional
psychologists. Factors such as cultural marginalization, psycho-
logical mindedness, and the experience of childhood pain tend to
emerge in the personal histories of psychologists who choose to
become psychotherapists. These factors can be a source of great
strength and compassion but also of vulnerability. As the authors
stated so eloquently, “. . . we all need to remind ourselves of why
we are in this field and how the work has led to unique and
profound, if sometimes elusive, pleasures” (p. 1030).
What are the occupational vulnerabilities for psychologists?
Challenges to professional competence are well documented and
clearly recognized in our field. In a survey of psychologists (Ma-
honey, 1997), one third of respondents reported that they had
experienced anxiety or depression and more than 40% reported
episodes of emotional exhaustion during the previous year. In a
subsequent study (Radeke & Mahoney, 2000), practicing psychol-
ogists reported greater anxiety, depression, and emotional exhaus-
tion than did research psychologists but also a more positive
influence from their work. In a classic article, the majority of
psychotherapists admitted to instances of working when too dis-
tressed to be effective and that nearly all of those surveyed ac-
knowledged that doing so is unethical (Pope, Tabachnick, &
Keith-Spiegel, 1987).
Self-Care Strategies for Psychologists
In recent years there has been a proliferation of self-care articles
and books for psychologists. Many authors agree that it is essential
for psychologists to implement proactive self-care strategies (e.g.,
Baker, 2003;Barnett, Baker, Elman, & Schoener, 2007;Brucato &
Neimeyer, 2009;Norcross & Guy, 2007;Pope & Vasquez, 2005;
Wicks, 2008;Wise, Hersh, & Gibson, 2011;Wise & Gibson,
2012). As we focus on the positive end of the spectrum, specific
self-care content can be drawn from many sources, including
spiritual and religious traditions, secular mindfulness-based ap-
proaches, therapeutic lifestyle changes, and the wealth of wisdom
from our own profession. As a resource for psychologists, we will
briefly describe two broad approaches to self-care and lifestyle
wellness that have provided both a foundation and inspiration for
our thinking. The first is a principle-based, flexible, comprehen-
sive model that was developed explicitly for psychologists (Nor-
cross & Guy, 2007). Their 12 principles draw from broad tradi-
tions of spirituality, mindfulness, and positive psychology in
addition to CBT and physical wellness. The second approach is
based on a comprehensive evidence-based systematic review of
therapeutic lifestyle changes (resulting in the easy-to-remember
acronym TLCs) that were proposed for psychologists to promote
to their clients or patients (Walsh, 2011). This model also explic-
itly incorporates elements of mindfulness, spirituality, and positive
psychology, in addition to specific evidence-based recommenda-
tions for nutrition and exercise that are designed to promote
physical health. The TLCs also incorporate an awareness of our
evolutionary need to be in nature and the negative impact of
overexposure to contexts of hyperreality and media immersion.
Although the TLC approach is intended to be incorporated into our
professional work with clients, research is cited suggesting that,
for example, psychologists who recommend exercise to their cli-
ents are more likely to exercise themselves (McEntee & Halgin,
1996). When asked to comment more broadly on the notion of
reciprocity that is developed in this article, Walsh replied that
In contemplative disciplines there has long been recognition that the
health and maturity of the teacher is essential for cultivating the health
and maturity of students. I assume that therapists will one day recog-
nize the same link between themselves and their patients. (Personal
communication, October 27, 2011)
These comprehensive approaches provide psychologists with
the essential what of self-care (as in what to do). In the next
section, we will outline the mindfulness-based positive principles
and practices (MPPPs) that focus on how these strategies might be
most compassionately and effectively applied to our lives as pro-
fessional psychologists. Along with the four foundational princi-
ples discussed earlier, the MPPPs provide a broad and flexible
blueprint for how psychologists can most effectively, realistically,
and sustainably incorporate self-care strategies and techniques into
our lives.
Mindfulness-Based Positive Principles and Practices
The term mindfulness-based positive principles and practices
(MPPPs) is intentionally and explicitly nonclinical. It incorporates
the mindfulness orientation, attitudes, and practices that we rec-
ommend as the foundation and essential component of sustainable
self-care for psychologists. Drawn primarily from mindfulness-
based stress reduction (MBSR; Kabat-Zinn, 1990), acceptance and
commitment therapy (ACT; Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 1999), and
the positive psychology movement (e.g., Seligman, Steen, Park, &
Peterson, 2005), the MPPPs are consistent with the foundational
principles outlined above in that they minimize the addition of new
self-care commitments and maximize the manageable and inte-
grated transformation of existing ways of thinking, doing, and
being. The approaches on which the MPPPs are primarily based,
share similar (although not entirely overlapping) conceptions of
mindfulness-based acceptance and change processes. MBSR,
ACT, and positive psychology all share an emphasis on intention-
ality and values-driven behavior as motivators and mechanisms for
sustainable lifestyle enhancement. MBSR and ACT differ from
positive psychology, however, in that they promote acceptance of
negative experience whereas positive psychology more explicitly
and directly seeks to promote positive experience. However, taken
together, these approaches are sensitive to our common vulnera-
bilities in that they each view human beings’ locus of suffering
(and the capacity for joy) within the very vicissitudes of being
human rather than within diagnosable psychopathology. It is this
latter point that promotes the principle of reciprocity.Because
client and psychologist often share much in common by way of
sources and manifestations of suffering, psychologists too can
benefit from the very principles and prescribed practices that
they encourage in those who seek their help.
The following sections on mindfulness, ACT, and positive psy-
chology offer theory and research that provide a meaningful
framework for our conceptualization of MPPPs. Although mind-
fulness and ACT are evidence-based treatments in and of them-
selves, we consider them here in their more fundamental embodi-
ment as a set of underlying attitudes that can guide our approach
to self-care and well-being.
What is mindfulness and how is it related to psychologists’
self-care? Mindfulness, at its most basic level, involves “paying
attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment,
and nonjudgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). Thus, mindfulness in-
volves the cultivation of intention (i.e., the purposeful and con-
scious choice of where and how we direct our attention moment to
moment and over the long term), a specific type of attention (i.e.,
observing with healthy disengagement one’s moment-to-moment
internal and external experiences), and particular attitudes–those
that relate to nonstriving, acceptance, and curiosity, to name but a
few (Kabat-Zinn, 1990;Shapiro, Carlson, Astin, & Freedman,
2006). The intentional cultivation of mindful awareness helps to
increase gentle awareness of thoughts, emotions, and unhelpful
ways of reacting to stress and stressful situations, in turn reinforc-
ing new and healthier methods and pathways of coping with life’s
daily struggles (Bishop et al., 2004). Thus, mindfulness practice,
when incorporated formally through intentional focus (or medita-
tion) on a regular basis and informally within moments of daily
living, has been shown to confer far-reaching psychological (e.g.,
Hofmann, Sawyer, Witt, & Oh, 2010), neurobiological (e.g., Höl-
zel et al., 2010), and interpersonal benefits (e.g., Carson, Carson,
Gil, & Baucom, 2006). It is important to note that mindfulness
training also facilitates individuals’ increased awareness and valu-
ing of positive and joyful experiences, development of a sense of
interconnectedness with others, and recognition of one’s own and
others’ basic goodness and humanity (e.g., Shapiro & Carlson,
MBSR is a comprehensive 8-week awareness training program
of securalized Buddhist philosophy and psychology (see Kabat-
Zinn, 1990, for seminal work). MBSR emphasizes formal medi-
tative practices in the form of mindful sitting, walking, yogic
stretching, and loving-kindness meditation along with more infor-
mal practices involving nonjudgmental and purposeful moment-
to-moment awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, sensations, and
behaviors of daily life (e.g., listening to clients, driving). In this
approach, intentionality is emphasized as a way to help individuals
bring to conscious awareness the qualities they would like to
embody rather than as a means to specific ends (e.g., needing to be
less worried or to reduce blood pressure). It is important that with
respect to the very pragmatic issue of how to build mindfulness
practice into one’s daily repertoire in a cost-effective and time-
efficient manner, Carmody, Baer, Lykins, & Olendzki (2009) have
shown that shorter or less time-intensive MBSR adaptations may
have similar beneficial effects as the original 8-week course. This
finding is quite promising for the perpetually busy and time-
pressured lives professional psychologists often lead and has im-
plications for the incorporation of MPPPs into continuing profes-
sional education and graduate school training (Christopher &
Maris, 2010).
Early research on MBSR for psychologists’ stress and well-
being has yielded encouraging findings, despite some methodolog-
ical limitations. From earlier prepost trials (Shapiro, Schwartz, &
Bonner, 1998) to a more recent controlled, comparative clinical
investigation (Jain et al., 2007), data consistently point to positive
effects of MBSR on clinicians’ perceived stress, psychological
distress, trait depressive and anxious affect, rumination and dis-
traction, empathy, and self- compassion (Jain et al., 2007;Shapiro,
Astin, Biship, & Cordova., 2005;Shapiro, Brown, & Biegel, 2007;
Shapiro, Oman, Thoresen, Plante, & Flinders, 2008;Shapiro,
Schwartz, & Bonner, 1998). Interestingly, an increased sense of
spirituality and relational interconnectedness has also been dem-
onstrated (Shapiro et al., 2008). Thus, the effects of even the most
stressful events in psychologists’ lives may be buffered signifi-
cantly by a gentle, nonjudgmental awareness of the event itself and
the internal experiences that ensue.
One study to date has examined the direct impact of a
mindfulness-based therapy on patients themselves. Grepmair et al.
(2007) found that patients in a psychosomatic hospital whose
therapists were taught Zen meditation were more likely than pa-
tients of the non-Zen trained therapists to benefit in numerous
ways, including self-reported reductions in somatization, obses-
siveness, paranoia, anxiety, anger, and psychoticism, and social
contact. It is notable that this study demonstrated that a variant of
mindfulness meditation can impact patients themselves when ther-
apists train in intentional, nonjudgmental, and present-focused
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Although ACT is broader than mindfulness training proper (see
Hayes et al., 1999), it shares with mindfulness philosophy the
central tenets of acceptance, nonattached and compassionate men-
tal observation of passing phenomena in the mind and body,
intentionality of attention and behavior, and present-focused
awareness. It differs primarily in its more explicit and central focus
on values-driven action. The central aim of ACT is to increase
individuals’ psychological flexibility, which is the capacity to act
based on what one finds most meaningful in life despite the natural
ebb and flow of pain, stress, distress, and even psychopathology
(Hayes et al., 1999). In keeping with a nonstriving attitude (also
emphasized in MBSR), reduction in stress or symptoms is actually
not the main goal nor actively targeted. Rather, entanglement with
(i.e., the attempt to directly control or deny) stress and symptoms
is posited to result in greater dysfunction, and, thus, ACT is known
for its purposeful cultivation of “letting go of the control agenda”
in the service of living a more vital and fulfilling life. When
individuals can intentionally act in accordance with their life
values, despite thoughts, emotions, and overt stressors that popu-
late the mental or physical landscape, psychological flexibility is
strengthened, and life satisfaction increases. ACT has been proven
effective for individuals with general stress-related conditions as
well as for those struggling with depression and anxiety, chronic
pain, substance dependence, and even psychosis (Hayes, Luoma,
Bond, Masuda, & Lillis, 2006).
What is the potential for ACT to help psychologists cultivate
sustainable self-care and well-being? There is preliminary but
promising evidence from a small set of both correlational studies
and clinical trials using samples of workplace employees (Bond &
Bunce, 2000;Bond & Bunce, 2003;Dahl, Wilson, & Nilsson,
2004;Flaxman & Bond, 2010a,2010b) as well substance abuse
counselors (Hayes et al., 2004). Overall, findings from these
studies suggest that a brief on-site ACT workshop can serve as a
potent method for self-care and positive lifestyle integration, im-
proving employees’ mental health; increasing work-related inno-
vation; and reducing burnout, sick leave, and medical clinic utili-
Positive Psychology
How do the evidence-based tenets of positive psychology sup-
port our suggested approach to psychologists’ self-care? Research
has consistently shown that activities that make people happy in
small doses, such as shopping, good food, and making money, tend
to have quickly diminishing returns and do not lead to fulfillment
in the long term (Myers, 2000;Ryan & Deci, 2000). Even factors
such as the quality of one’s health (Okun & George, 1984) and
physical attractiveness (Diener, Wolsic, & Fijuta, 1995) account
for only a very small proportion of lasting happiness and well-
being. As Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, and Schkade (2005) strongly
suggested, happiness ultimately can be cultivated and sustained not
through the alteration of internal or external life circumstances but
rather through the intentional undertaking of life-affirming,
happiness-inducing practices and the strengthening of positive
emotionality and positive character traits (Seligman et al., 2005).
Psychologists may avoid many pitfalls and successfully cultivate
sustainable well-being through understanding and putting into
practice a broad-based and increasingly evidence-based frame-
work for positive emotionality as vital to living a healthy and
fulfilling life.
The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions (Fredrick-
son, 1998,2001) posits that positive emotions can broaden our
cognitive, attentional, and behavioral repertoires. When repeated,
such a broadened state and perspective can facilitate the cultivation
of personal resources and traits of resilience for sustainable well-
being (Cohn & Fredrickson, 2009;Fredrickson, 1998). In a virtu-
ous (positive) cycle, newly cultivated resources and capacities for
coping can then increase a growing trait-like inclination toward
positive emotionality, thus, broadening once again one’s aware-
ness of new opportunities for positive emotion and resource cul-
tivation (Cohn, Fredrickson, Brown, Mikels, & Conway, 2009).
As the Vietnamese meditation teacher and peace activist, Thich
Nhat Hahn, has aptly suggested, “sometimes your joy can be the
source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source
of your joy.” Research has increasingly supported this wisdom and
demonstrated that when intentionally induced, positivity can
broaden attention, cognition, and creativity; enhance feelings of
closeness with and trust in others (e.g., Dunn & Schweitzer, 2005;
Waugh & Fredrickson, 2006); buffer stress and negative emotional
reactivity; and result in new and adaptive thinking, feeling, and
action (Garland & Howard, 2009). Supporting such basic research
findings, one study (Fredrickson, Cohn, Coffey, Pek, & Finkel,
2008) impressively demonstrated that through a 7-week loving-
kindness meditation workshop (derived from the mindfulness
meditation tradition) that was designed to help participants to
intentionally focus the mind and body on wishing others and the
self well, a range of positive emotional experiences (e.g., gratitude,
hope, contentment, joy) were cultivated over time and increased
with greater meditative practice. Personal resources and resilience
traits, reduced illness symptomatology, improved relations with
others, and mindfulness became increasingly evident and subse-
quently predicted greater life satisfaction and reduced depressive
symptomatology (Cohn & Fredrickson, 2010). Of particular rele-
vance to our emphasis on building sustainable self-care practice
and well-being for psychologists, the range of benefits from learn-
ing loving-kindness meditation was sustained one year later (Cohn
& Fredrickson, 2010).
Gratitude practice has also received increasing attention as a
method of cultivating greater well-being. In fact, research suggests
that people who express gratitude on a regular basis have better
physical health, optimism, progress toward goals, well-being, and
help others more (Emmons & Crumpler, 2000). Gratitude practices
might include keeping a gratitude journal on a daily basis, regu-
larly updating a list of people for whom one is grateful and
reaching out to those who have positively impacted one’s life, and
acknowledging the personal strengths and qualities one possesses.
Practicing optimistic thinking (Seligman, 1998) as well as identi-
fying, appreciating, and building on one’s signature strengths and
virtues has also been shown to improve one’s quality of life and
sense of well-being and can act as an antidepressant and stress
resilience factor (Seligman et al., 2005). It is interesting to note
that the “heart” qualities of hope, gratitude, and love, for example,
have been more strongly associated with life fulfillment than
character strengths that suggest more cerebral leanings (e.g., curi-
osity, love of learning; Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2004). This
factor may make the practice of gratitude particularly meaningful
for psychologists in their role as psychotherapists with its unique
and complex blend of intellectual conceptualization and human
What Are the Potential Benefits of MPPPs for
First, through the intentional cultivation of nonjudgmental con-
tact with the present moment (i.e., mindful awareness), psycholo-
gists can learn to be more comfortable with difficult emotions in
their role as healers and helpers. Given psychologists’ personal
histories and motivations for entering the field of psychology
(Farber et al., 2005), there is a clear need for increased self-
compassion, the awareness of countertransference reactions, and
capacity to attune to clients’ emotional lives without overidentifi-
cation. Mindfulness-based practices might, for example, serve to
simultaneously enhance self-compassion, compassion for clients
and loved ones, and decrease ruminative tendencies about difficult
clients and one’s personal limitations (e.g., Siegel, 2010). Such
enhanced capacities would improve psychologists’ quality of life,
help “cushion” more difficult and stressful moments, and provide
more space to experience joy and sense of purpose in life. Second,
by identifying and repeatedly reaffirming core life values, psychol-
ogists can intentionally refocus their efforts on what is most
meaningful, rather than becoming sidetracked by avoidance of
what is stressful or fusing with unhelpful thoughts about one’s
professional incompetence—thereby demonstrating enhanced psy-
chological flexibility. These principles and practices could pro-
mote positive self-care-oriented activities—such as exercise, med-
itation, spending time with close friends and family, being in
nature—becoming woven into the fabric of psychologists’ daily
life because they would align with life-affirming and flourishing-
focused attitudes. Incorporation of these positive psychological
principles supports commitment to a meaningful and fulfilling life
and promotes engagement in happiness-producing, stress buffer-
ing, and well-being enhancing practices, such as gratitude expres-
sion and loving-kindness meditation. These practices and medita-
tions can be done as brief wellness-enhancing, self-care exercises
that can be seamlessly integrated into daily life. As an example, on
the commute home, a psychologist could repeat silently, with a
sense of unconditional warmth, “May [I, my family, my clients]
experience safety, happiness, strength, and ease of mind.” Given
that loving-kindness practice has been shown to have long-term
and varied benefits, psychologists would have evidence-based
support to integrate this practice into their daily lives. The benefits
of practicing gratitude (even briefly) on a regular basis have
already been discussed. If such practices are integrated into daily
life, psychologists may begin to feel as though self-care, well-
being, and even happiness do not have to be targeted as goals to be
attained but rather simply as how a fulfilling and meaningful life
is to be lived.
A Vision for the Future
We see significant potential for the incorporation of these prin-
ciples and practices into graduate training programs, professional
developmental modules during clinical internship, and a wide
range of potential training opportunities for early career and ex-
perienced clinicians. We can envision it becoming common prac-
tice for psychologists to intentionally engage in the practices
suggested by this research and to encourage their use by clients. In
addition, we see important potential policy implications related to
how continuing professional education and development is con-
ceptualized for psychologists. If incorporated into formal continu-
ing education offerings, psychologists could simultaneously work
toward licensure renewal while experientially learning evidence-
based and practical approaches for more effectively managing
stress, cultivating well-being, and potentially enhancing the
therapist–client relationship and client outcomes. The possibilities
for psychological and interpersonal transformation continue to be
documented, and it may now be time for those of us who devote
our days to helping others to transform our own lives toward
mindful awareness and positive sustainable well-being. Document-
ing the benefits of these approaches for psychologists’ functioning
is a promising focus for future research.
Finally, we believe that sustainable psychologist self-care must
build from (and repeatedly return to) an abiding acknowledgment
of being truly human. When psychologists more readily realize the
false demarcations between themselves and their clients, self-care
becomes not only an ethical imperative but a humanistic one as
well. It stands to reason that when mindful awareness, positive
emotion, or personal strengths are intentionally cultivated, they
can more easily be integrated and sustained. Keeping within con-
scious awareness that which is easily forgotten may be one of the
most vital foundational practices to which psychologists can as-
pire. Sustainable self-care and enhanced well-being, however, are
not free. But we must ask ourselves what comes at a higher cost:
maintaining a status quo that promotes a sense of mere survival or
mindfully exerting the effort, creativity, and time it takes to prac-
tice the art and science of self-care in the service of flourishing and
living a life of sustainable well-being. Finally, in a return to where
we started, “if not now, when?”
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Received December 28, 2011
Revision received June 15, 2012
Accepted June 20, 2012
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... Counsellors work in a one-way caring culture (Guy, 2000;Wise et al. 2012), where they are responsible for supporting clients in achieving their mental health objectives (Corey & Corey, 2020). However, they face a variety of emotional and personal challenges, which can have a negative influence on their quality of life and professional effectiveness (Bradley et al., 2013). ...
... However, they face a variety of emotional and personal challenges, which can have a negative influence on their quality of life and professional effectiveness (Bradley et al., 2013). Paradoxically, while supporting clients to improve their well-being, practitioners frequently neglect their own needs (Barnett et al. 2007;Wise et al. 2012), and self-care is typically deferred to the end of a to-do list of the practitioners (Posluns & Gall, 2020). This negligence may cause negative consequences that harm the counselling practices resulting in stress, burnout, compassion fatigue, impairment, and vicarious trauma (Bamonti et al., 2014;Killian, 2008;Lawson et al., 2007;Mullen et al., 2017;Posluns & Gall, 2020). ...
... As previously noted, self-care tends to not only prevent negative consequences among mental health providers and their clients but also enhance their well-being (Wise et al., 2012). The benefits of self-care practice in increasing positive results such as decreased stress symptoms (Steinlin et al., 2017), quality of life (Goncher, et al., 2013), well-being (Richards et al., 2010;Steinlin et al., 2017), compassion satisfaction (Alkema et al., 2008;Killian, 2008), professional well-being (Dorociak et al., 2017), and job satisfaction (Acker, 2018) have been well documented in the literature. ...
School counsellors are responsible for maintaining their well-being to provide quality service for the students. Self-care activities are the best way to preserve and enhance the well-being of counsellors. In this vein, this study aimed to discover the self-care experiences of school counsellors employing a qualitative approach. Fifteen licensed school counsellors (eight of whom were female) from various schools in Turkey participated in the study. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews. The data analysis was carried out with an inductive thematic analysis approach using NVivo 11 software. The results of the study are presented under four interrelated themes which are self-care practices, improved wellness, increased productivity in schools, and barriers to self-care. Findings of the study are discussed based on literature and a number of suggestions are presented for future studies of researchers and practitioners. School counsellors are responsible for a wide range of tasks, such as individual counselling , group counselling, creating and implementing school counselling programs, and consulting with the school principal, teacher, and parents. They also support students'
... While participants placed varying degrees of emphasis on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of self-care, there was a shared consensus about the importance of self-care for holistic wellbeing. Indeed, this observation is in line with the existing self-care literature in which it has been reported that self-care conceptualisations of other psychology professionals as being concerned with the promotion of overall well-being across the physical, mental and emotional facets of their lives Wise et al., 2012). ...
... These sentiments shared by Jess align with previous findings in the self-care literature that have observed engagement in self-care behaviors to be associated with increases in outcomes such as reduced stress and greater life satisfaction (Rupert & Dorociak, 2019;Wise et al., 2012). Indeed, a body of evidence exists to support psychology professionals' use of self-care as a valuable tool to proactively mitigate the negative effects of the profession (e.g., burnout or psychological impairment), model healthy behavior to their clients, and minimize the potential for committing ethical violations in their work (Norcross & VandenBos, 2018;Porter, 1995). ...
Scholars from the psychology and mental health professions have previously identified the value of self-care for enhancing practitioners personal and professional well-being, and fitness to practice. Despite these advances, self-care in sport psychology practitioners has received limited attention from scholars, with the few extant studies investigating senior practitioners’ self-care. As such, there currently exists little understanding of how neophyte practitioners understand, experience and enact self-care. In the current study, we aimed to better understand SPP self-care early in individuals’ professional development. Grounded in ontological relativism, we recruited 18 self-identified white neophyte SPPs residing in the United Kingdom (12 females and 6 males), aged between 24 and 52 years (Mage = 31.94, SDage = 7.81), to take part in semi-structured interviews in which we explored their experiences of enacting self-care during their training. Five main themes were constructed following a reflexive thematic analysis of data. These themes were: (a) What self-care means to neophyte SPPs, (b) The cornerstones of self-care, (c) What facilitates neophyte’s self-care, (d) The self-care hurdles that neophytes face and (e) The self-care actions that neophytes implement. These findings contribute to the nascent body of literature exploring self-care within SPP populations and serve to better illuminate neophyte SPPs’ understanding of self-care and how they perceive their interactions with the profession to impact their ability to enact self-care. The current lack of emphasis on self-care in SPP training pathways and employment settings as well as key considerations for the development of greater self-care awareness within current and future neophyte cohorts is discussed. Lay summary: In this study we explored the self-care experiences of 18 neophyte Sport Psychology Practitioners (SPPs). Analysis of interview data identified the meaning of self-care to neophyte SPPs, the key mechanisms, such as self-awareness, that underpin self-care as well as the facilitating and challenging aspects related to engaging in self-care. APPLIED IMPLICATIONS Neophyte sport psychology practitioners perceive engaging in self-care to be of benefit to a positive work-life balance and their holistic development. The development of mechanisms such as self-awareness and psychological flexibility in one’s self-care practices may be beneficial to promoting effective self-care for neophytes. Greater efforts from employing organizations, regulatory bodies and educational institutions are needed to better communicate the importance of self-care during training.
... Accordingly, integrating information on the research related to the positive benefits for psychologists of incorporating mindfulness practices can introduce these notions at a critical juncture in their personal and professional development. More generally, encouraging graduate students to practice on themselves the psychological skills that they use on their clients can deepen their understanding of the interventions they are learning and also serves as a reminder that we share a common experience of being human in a complex and challenging world (Wise et al., 2012). ...
Psychology is a popular subject to study, with thousands entering graduate school each year, but unlike med or pre-law, there is limited information available to help students learn about the field, how to successfully apply, and how to thrive while completing doctoral work. The Portable Mentor is a useful, must-have resource for all students interested in psychology. This third edition is updated and expanded, designed to address students' and trainees' need for open dialogue and mentorship. Throughout, it covers some of the common challenges graduates face and features discussions about how to celebrate your identity and find a rewarding, worthwhile career path. It comprises thirty chapters written by more than seventy of the field's top experts, successfully filling a void in professional development advice.
... "One of the factors is having a heavy teaching workload which has a great impact physically, emotionally & psychologically," Teacher E stated. Teacher happiness can be difficult to find sometimes, the teaching profession is among the most pressured and stressful (Wise et al. 2012). Moreover, most of the interviewees are still content and satisfied being a teacher in a private school in Cavite province. ...
Full-text available
This case study used a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to determine the resilience of private school teachers in facing workload adversities during the COVID-19 pandemic in Academic Year 2020-2021. It also analysed how the teaching workload adversities affect the teachers' teaching performance in terms of assigned classes and school-related activities, and teacher well-being in terms of teaching activities, non-teaching activities, and well-being. Resilience was determined using the Adversity Response Profile (ARP) developed by Dr. Paul Stoltz, the proponent of Adversity Quotient. Findings showed that the mean of respondents' ARP is Below Average. This in addition to heavy and challenging teaching workloads has negative impacts on the teachers' teaching performance and well-being. The study provides implications not only to its subjects but to all stakeholders of an educational institution. It signifies the importance of resilience or the ability to bounce back from adversities in life. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic persists, having resilience is a must especially for teachers. Thus, it calls for a more administrative support by providing the ways and means to help develop and strengthen the teachers' resilience especially in this time of pandemic.
... In this sense it is possible to analyze the famous proposition of the master Rabbi Hillel "If I am not for me, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, who am I?" (Wise, et al., 2012). In this sentence we can verify the distinction proposed between a virtuous individualism contained in the question "If I am not for me who will be for me?" which evidently refers to self-love and the selfish-individualism that is present in the question "And if I am only for myself who am I?". ...
Full-text available
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... Future research incorporating other key informants (e.g., MHWs in third sector organizations, medical practitioners, peer support workers, social workers, carers, service users) is needed as our sample largely consisted of practitioner psychologists and nursing staff working in mental health. It is possible that this may have influenced the themes to emerge, for example, relating to the importance of self-care, whereby some professional groups have a professional focus on its importance in the context of working in mental health (Wise et al., 2012). Nonetheless, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have brought into sharp focus the need to protect the wellbeing of NHS staff with an increased focus on frontline medical staff (Unadkat & Farquhar, 2020). ...
... Self-care includes a set of practices and skills intended to both safeguard individual health and to maintain positive attitudes that promote healthy coping and continuous personal growth (Wise et al., 2012). Self-care behaviors not only include actions to improve physical health, but also attitudes or desire to safeguard oneself (Kissil & Niño, 2017). ...
Self-care behaviors are fundamental for a healthy lifestyle. These behaviors can lead to improved physical and psychological health, which can in turn lead to individual and social wellbeing. The present paper proposes self-care as a set of behaviors that help sustain a positive environment (i.e., a sustainable behavior) wherein individuals who take care of themselves can aid in maintaining the positivity of the environment. Thus, taking care of oneself, others and the natural environment may result in wellbeing and environmental quality. This study aimed to investigate the role of self-care as part of a network of behaviors that help to maintain a positive family environment and wellbeing. A sample of Mexicans participated (n = 290). Results indicated that a positive family environment influences and is influenced by wellbeing and by sustainable behaviors that include self-care, caring for others and caring for the natural environment. These findings provide evidence of the inclusion of self-care as part of sustainable behaviors within a positive family environment.
Effective coping strategies can protect against the adverse effects of stress. This study investigated self‐compassion's ability to predict approach and avoidance coping in psychology, counselling and psychotherapy practitioners (PCPPs) during COVID‐19, and whether this differed between genders. To date, no research has investigated this relationship, despite positive associations being drawn in other populations. Three hundred and nineteen PCPPs completed an online survey including the Brief COPE and Self‐Compassion Short Form. Self‐compassion significantly predicted greater use of approach coping and reduced use of avoidance coping. The predictive ability of self‐compassion was slightly better in female practitioners. Self‐judgement arose as a prominent subscale of self‐compassion across genders, increasing both approach and avoidance coping. Implications for future research and practice are discussed, concerning barriers to self‐compassion and the requirement of therapeutic programmes and psychoeducation as a prerequisite for effective coping strategies in the PCPP population.
The mission of this chapter is to encourage and provide a model for leaders to lead organizations through a work-life balance (WLB)-centered holistic leadership approach. This approach begins by explaining why it is imperative to lead by considering the totality of each person from a diverse and inclusive viewpoint. The totality of each person includes one's self-care management practices and all roles one plays in life. The apex of this mission is to provide leaders with a research-based practitioner model to create an inclusive culture of organizational health and wellness. The self-care flourished living (SCFL) model coupled with a holistic leadership approach that diversifies to meet individual employee needs will be showcased in this chapter. The result of leading employees through SCFL and a holistic approach will promote living a life of balance through effective self-care.
There is general consensus that self-rated health is the strongest predictor of subjective well-being during adulthood. What is not understood is the reason for the consistent relationship between these two variables. Other literature suggests that self-report health ratings are a function of both objective physical health status and neuroticism. This study examines the interrelationships among neuroticism, physician-rated health, self-rated health and subjective well-being concurrently and prospectively. Relationships are compared across gender, indicators of subjective well-being and times of measurement. The sample includes 243 men and 225 women in the cross-sectional analyses and 185 men and 165 women in the longitudinal analyses. As predicted, the results indicate that: 1.(1) self-rated health is significantly correlated with neuroticism, physician-rated health and subjective well-being;2.(2) neuroticism is significantly related to subjective well-being;3.(3) physician-rated health is weakly correlated with subjective well-being; and4.(4) partialling out neuroticism reduces the association between self-rated health and subjective well-being more than partialling out physician-rated health. Unexpectedly, neuroticism is significantly related to changes in subjective well-being.Future studies of the determinants of subjective well-being should include measures of neuroticism and physician-rated health.
For professional psychologists there is a strong link between self-care and competence. Principle A of the 2002 APA Ethics Code reminds us that "Psychologists strive to be aware of the possible effect of their own physical and mental health on their ability to help those with whom they work". This chapter provides a broad overview of our ethical responsibilities and a framework for effective decision making in the areas of self-care and competence. Using the perspective of professional development, policies and research related to self-care and competence in graduate training and professional practice are reviewed and discussed. In addition, the implications of several lines of relevant research will be considered including challenges to engaging in effective self-assessment and self-care and the positive impact on therapist well-being and client outcomes of mindfulness training. Professional vignettes and recommendations for best practices in professional practice and graduate training are described.
Positive emotions include pleasant or desirable situational responses, ranging from interest and contentment to love and joy, but are distinct from pleasurable sensation and undifferentiated positive affect. These emotions are markers of people's overall well-being or happiness, but they also enhance future growth and success. This has been demonstrated in work, school, relationships, mental and physical health, and longevity. The broaden-andbuild theory of positive emotions suggests that all positive emotions lead to broadened repertoires of thoughts and actions and that broadening helps build resources that contribute to future success. Unlike negative emotions, which are adapted to provide a rapid response to a focal threat, positive emotions occur in safe or controllable situations and lead more diffusely to seeking new resources or consolidating gains. These resources outlast the temporary emotional state and contribute to later success and survival. This chapter discusses the nature of positive emotions both as evolutionary adaptations to build resources and as appraisals of a situation as desirable or rich in resources. We discuss the methodological challenges of evoking positive emotions for study both in the lab and in the field and issues in observing both short-term ("broaden") and long-term ("build") effects. We then review the evidence that positive emotions broaden perception, attention, motivation, reasoning, and social cognition and ways in which these may be linked to positive emotions' effects on important life outcomes. We also discuss and contextualize evidence that positive emotions may be detrimental at very high levels or in certain situations. We close by discussing ways in which positive emotions theory can be harnessed by both basic and applied positive psychology research.
Psychotherapy practitioners (N = 155) responded to an anonymous self-report questionnaire focused on their personal problems, their recent self-care patterns, and their attitudes toward personal therapy. The most frequently reported personal problems clustered around emotional exhaustion and fatigue, but these were concerns only among less than half of the sample. Personal therapy had been experienced by almost 90% of participants, and their average ratings of its value were very positive. Cost and accessibility were the most frequently noted concerns regarding personal therapy. These findings afford a more positive image of the personal life of the psychotherapist than has been rendered by previous surveys.
This chapter discusses the approach of mindfulness-based relationship enhancement (MBRE) in couples. Enduring human partnerships inevitably entail adjustment to a course of stressful events and situations, both minor and major. Mindfulness meditation group interventions are efficacious in helping individuals to cope more effectively with stress in a variety of nonclinical and clinical populations. The theoretical basis for applying mindfulness to boost partners' stress coping skills and enhance their relationships is based on at least four salient processes: (1) The act of being mindful-that is, incorporating all experiences, whether enjoyable or difficult, into nonjudgmental presence of mind; (2) The acceptance of one's experience as they are, thereby increasing the compassion and empathy toward others; (3) promoting the relaxation response that results in changes that are the mirror opposite of stress-induced hyperarousal, and subjectively is often experienced as feelings of calm, clarity, and well-being; and (4) self-broadening, leading to attitudinal transformations that are expressed in terms of a greater sense of trust, love for others, and connectedness with a greater "whole." This shows that relationship satisfaction between couple increases through mutual engagement in exciting, self-expanding activities including those leading to the discovery of linkages, wisdom, and their position in the universe.
Gratitude is an emotional state and an attitude toward life that is a source of human strength in enhancing one's personal and relational well-being. In this article, we first explore the theological origins of gratitude as a virtue to be cultivated in the major monotheistic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Each tradition emphasizes the development of gratitude as a path to a good life, and prescribes approaches for practicing. Gratitude is explored further in the context of psychological theory and research. Empirical research linking gratitude with well-being and goal attainment is presented and discussed. Finally, future research questions and a tentative research agenda are presented.