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Abstract

Job burnout is characterized by feelings of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion within the context of one’s work. Individuals experiencing burnout are at risk for a range of negative outcomes including increased feelings of stress and emotion strain, negative perceptions of work-life balance, and may ultimately lead to exiting one’s current job or field of employment. Given the well-documented shortages of school psychology practitioners across the USA, it is important to understand the extent of feelings of burnout in the field, causes of these feelings, and potentially effective ways of preventing and/or responding to burnout when it occurs. The current study surveyed practitioners in four Southeastern states regarding current and past feelings of burnout, perceptions of causes of burnout, personal strategies used in dealing with burnout when it occurs, and thoughts regarding the role of training programs in preventing burnout among practitioners. Results indicated that most participants noted feeling some level of burnout at some point during their careers. Commonly identified causes of burnout included feelings of role overload and lack of support from administration. Practitioners also reported a range of strategies as particularly helpful in dealing with feelings of burnout including the importance of training programs emphasizing the importance of self-care and presenting a realistic picture of real-world practice. Implications for future research and practice are also discussed.
1 23
Contemporary School Psychology
The Official Journal of the California
Association of School Psychologists
ISSN 2159-2020
Contemp School Psychol
DOI 10.1007/s40688-017-0138-x
Job Burnout in School Psychology: How Big
Is the Problem?
Ethan J.Schilling, Mickey Randolph &
Candace Boan-Lenzo
1 23
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Job Burnout in School Psychology: How Big Is the Problem?
Ethan J. Schilling
1
&Mickey Randolph
1
&Candace Boan-Lenzo
1
#California Association of School Psychologists 2017
Abstract Job burnout is characterized by feelings of physical,
emotional, and mental exhaustion within the context of ones
work. Individuals experiencing burnout are at risk for a range
of negative outcomes including increased feelings of stress
and emotion strain, negative perceptions of work-life balance,
and may ultimately lead to exiting ones current job or field of
employment. Given the well-documented shortages of school
psychology practitioners across the USA, it is important to
understand the extent of feelings of burnout in the field, causes
of these feelings, and potentially effective ways of preventing
and/or responding to burnout when it occurs. The current
study surveyed practitioners in four Southeastern states re-
garding current and past feelings of burnout, perceptions of
causes of burnout, personal strategies used in dealing with
burnout when it occurs, and thoughts regarding the role of
training programs in preventing burnout among practitioners.
Results indicated that most participants noted feeling some
level of burnout at some point during their careers.
Commonly identified causes of burnout included feelings of
role overload and lack of support from administration.
Practitioners also reported a range of strategies as particularly
helpful in dealing with feelings of burnout including the im-
portance of training programs emphasizing the importance of
self-care and presenting a realistic picture of real-world prac-
tice. Implications for future research and practice are also
discussed.
Keywords School psychology .Job burnout .Job satisfaction
School psychology is a field that relies heavily on the excel-
lence of its practitioners in order to ensure the delivery of
high-quality school-based services to students. Therefore, it
is important that school psychologists feel a certain level of
satisfaction with and a positive outlook about the duties they
perform on an everyday basis. Singh et al. (2016)reportthat
having a passion for ones work is often highly predictive of
feelings of mastery and control over ones job situation. If
school psychologists are passionate about what they do, they
are more likely to take pride in their work and to feel a certain
responsibility to the students they serve. It is then vital to
address any negative feelings among school psychologists
that might interfere with this passion and disrupt their
services provided, namely job burnout.
The Mayo Clinic (2012) defines job burnout as a state of
feeling exhausted physically, emotionally, or mentally within
the context of ones work. These feelings can derive from a
variety of factors including holding negative attitudes toward
ones job (Bianchi and Schonfeld 2016), increasing demands/
feelings of emotional and physical fatigue (Ilies et al. 2015),
and experiencing overall role stress (Richards et al. 2016).
Signs of job burnout include lacking energy and motivation
to engage in productive work, becoming cynical, and
experiencing mental health difficulties (Maslach et al. 1996;
Tom oyuki 2014). In fact, Bianchi and Schonfeld (2016)have
further identified burnout as a depressive syndrome in its own
right characterized by dysfunctional attitudes, ruminative feel-
ings, and a tendency toward making negative attributions.
Individuals experiencing feelings of job burnout are then at a
greater risk for negative outcomes including increased job
stress and perceptions of work-life conflict (Clark et al.
2014). In more extreme cases of job burnout, an individual
*Ethan J. Schilling
ejschilling@wcu.edu
1
Department of Psychology, Western Carolina University,
Cullowhee, NC 28723, USA
Contemp School Psychol
DOI 10.1007/s40688-017-0138-x
Author's personal copy
may ultimately decide to leave his/her place of work orfield of
employment as a result (Gabel Shemueli et al. 2015).
Given that shortages in school psychology practitioners
have been well documented across the USA (Castillo et al.
2014), it is important to understand the extent of feelings of
job burnout among school psychologists in potentially con-
tributing to retention difficulties and what those in the field
might be able to do to best address this issue. The current
study aimed to examine such feelings among a sample of
practitioners across the Southeastern USA. This study is an
expansion of more recent research indicating the scope of
feelings of burnout among school psychologists in this region
is often expressed to a higher degree with up to 92% of prac-
titioners reporting experienced some degree of burnout at
some point in their careers. (Schilling and Randolph 2017).
Job Burnout as a Construct
Most researchers examining the issue of burnout conceptual-
ize the term as first identified by Maslach and Jackson (1986).
These researchers postulated that feelings of burnout are most
often characterized by three distinct components: emotional
exhaustion (EE), depersonalization (DP), and a lower sense of
personal accomplishment (PA). That is, individuals experienc-
ing burnout in their current employment are more likely to feel
overwhelmed by their current job duties, experience difficult
feelings toward clients and/or coworkers, and hold general
perceptions of their ineffectiveness in their current job roles.
It is then important to discover the degree to which feelings of
job burnout conceptualized in this way are currently affecting
the school psychology workforce in the USA.
Job Burnout Among School Psychologists
The attrition rate for practicing school psychologists, which
can be seen as one potential outcome of job burnout, has been
previously estimated to be around 5% annually (Lund and
Reschly 1998), which has remained fairly constant over the
years. Generally, school psychologists report feeling a fairly
high degree of satisfaction with their work. However, previous
studies examining rates of practitioners across the USA who
report feeling dissatisfied to very dissatisfied with their current
jobs indicate that around 1015% experience such feelings
consistently (Anderson et al. 1984; Worrell et al. 2006).
Despite these earlier estimates, Bit is likely that with the pres-
sure put on schools and the large increase in mental health
caseloads for school psychologists, considerable stress is like-
ly^(Kratochwil et al. 2015,pp.23). Given this fact, it is not
unreasonable to believe that more recent estimates of the ex-
tent of burnout feelings among practitioners may now be
higher. Although more recent estimates of burnout in the field
are largely lacking, results of a recent study have portrayed
that school psychologists may be particularly vulnerable to the
effects of emotional exhaustion with one third of practitioners
surveyed reporting a high degree of these difficult feelings
(Boccio et al. 2016). Furthermore, this same study revealed
that school psychologists report higher feelings of deperson-
alization (noted by less than 5% of practitioners surveyed) and
a lower sense of personal accomplishment (noted by 12% of
practitioners surveyed) to a lesser degree. As recent research
has identified feelings of burnout among school psychologists
practicing in the Southeastern USA as a significant concern
with 92% of practitioners reporting some level of these feel-
ings throughout their careers (Schilling and Randolph 2017),
it is then important to identify what factors are most often
noted by school psychologists as contributing to burnout with
the ultimate goal of addressing these concerns in a timely
manner.
Typical Factors Contributing to Burnout Among School
Psychologists
Past research has indicated that a variety of factors may be
particularly contributory in leading to feelings of burnout in
the field. These factors can be generally categorized as school/
job-based characteristics as well as feelings of being support-
ed in ones current job role. Related to school/job factors,
several characteristics of ones employment have been identi-
fied as often leading to feelings of role overload and subse-
quently to greater feelings of burnout among school psychol-
ogists (Proctor and Steadman 2003). These factors include the
type of setting worked in (Bolnik and Brock 2005;Gibson
et al. 2009) and number of schools served (Proctor and
Steadman 2003). In addition, perceptions of ones worth with-
in the school system including consideration given in school
policies (Unruh and McKellar 2013; VanVoorhis and
Levinson 2006), lack of opportunities for advancement
(Unruh and McKellar 2013; VanVoorhis and Levinson
2006), and lack of perceived support from administration in-
cluding supervisors (Gibson et al. 2009; Schilling and
Randolph 2017)have also been identified as factors predictive
of feelings of burnout in the field. Relatedly, some researchers
have identified the pressure to act unethically from others
within the school system (i.e., withholding recommendations,
supporting inappropriate placements for students) as related to
increased feelings of burnout and intention to leave onescur-
rent job (Boccio et al. 2016).
In addition, the results of more recent research have
portrayed that it is not only particular school characteristics,
but more importantly practitionerslevels of reported satisfac-
tion with these characteristics that are most predictive of feel-
ings of burnout. For example, stated dissatisfaction with ones
current salary as well as the school psychologist-to-students
ratio within the school system in which one works is often
more predictive of burnout than merely looking at levels of
Contemp School Psychol
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current salaries or ratios alone (Schilling and Randolph 2017;
Unruh and McKellar 2013; VanVoorhis and Levinson 2006).
That is, one might imagine a school psychologist working in a
system with lower salaries and higher practitioner-to-student
ratios who is perfectly satisfied with this current situation. As
a result, he/she is then less likely to experience feelings of
burnout.
Level of perceived social support has also been found to be
associated with feelings of burnout among workers in general
and particularly among school psychologists (Wang et al.
2016). This support can come in many forms including from
family, friends, coworkers, administration, and even from the
field in general. Previous studies have shown that support
received from ones district/colleagues (Unruh and McKellar
2013; VanVoorhis and Levinson 2006), from direct supervisor
(Gibson et al. 2009; Schilling and Randolph 2017), and from
state or national school psychology associations (VanVoorhis
and Levinson 2006) can be particularly helpful in both
preventing and responding to burnout feelings. Interestingly,
some practitioners have reported support from friends and
family as not as effective in dealing with the issue of burnout
as they do not understand the language of the field (Schilling
and Randolph 2017).
Finally, research has also focused more recently on identi-
fying protective factors that may exist in preventing the expe-
rience of burnout among workers, including school psychol-
ogists. These factors include feelings of self-efficacy in being
able to competently complete job duties and to navigate the
team climate in the work environment (Loeb et al. 2016)as
well as resilience in the sense of being able to deal with diffi-
cult work situations when they occur (Richards et al. 2016).
Regional Differences in School Psychology Practice
and Related Feelings of Burnout
Although a well-informed conclusion regarding regional dif-
ferences in the extent of job burnout among school psychol-
ogists cannot be made at this time, it is reasonable to be-
lieve that practitioners in some areas of the USA may be at
a greater risk for burnout due to the nature of practice with-
in these respective regions. School psychologists in the
Mid- and Southeastern USA often report higher
practitioner-to-student ratios, lower satisfaction with salaries,
higher numbers of behavioral referrals, and a higher per-
centage of time spent in assessment activities than their
peers in other areas of the country (Hosp and Reschly
2002; Schilling and Randolph 2017). Given that these fac-
tors are all well known to be related to negative feelings
about ones job, it is reasonable to believe that they are then
more likely to experience higher levels of job burnout in
general. It was the goal of the current study to discover the
extent to which this is true.
Method
Participants
Participants in the current study included 122 school psy-
chologists working in educational settings in four
Southeastern states, representing a response rate of 45%.
The majority of participants were female (84.6%) with a
mean age of 42.6 (SD = 12.9). Most participants (98.3%)
reported working in public school settings representing
urban (24.8%), suburban (42.5%), and rural (32.75%)
geographic locations. Participants represented a nice dis-
tribution across the career spectrum with 26.6% providing
services for more than 20 years, 30.2% providing services
for between 10 and 19 years, 30.9% providing services
for between 5 and 9 years, and 13.3% providing services
for less than 5 years. Participant characteristics are fairly
consistent with nationwide demographic characteristics of
school psychologists collected as part of the most recent
membership survey distributed by the National
Association of School Psychologists (National
Association of School Psychologists 2016) in regard to
gender (83% Female) and age (mean = 42.4).
Participants in the current study who reported primarily
working in public schools (98.3%) represented a higher
proportion of practitioners working in this setting in com-
parison to nationwide data estimated at 86% (National
Association of School Psychologists 2016).
Measures
Demographic Form A demographic form was used to
gather information about participantsage, gender, work
setting, geographic location, estimated school
psychologist-to-student ratio, salary, and number of annu-
al evaluations completed.
School Psychology Satisfaction and Burnout Questionnaire
The SPSBQ was developed as a tool to gather descriptive
information from participants regarding feelings of burnout
as well as perceptions of factors contributing to these feelings.
Participants were asked to rate their current level of satisfac-
tion with their salary, current school psychologist-to-student
ratio, and number of evaluations completed annually on a
Likert-type scale ranging from Very Dissatisfied to Ve r y
Satisfied.
To examine perceptions of burnout, participants were
asked to respond to yes/no questions, forced choice items,
Likert-type ratings, and open-ended questions. Participants
responded to questions about whether they had experienced
feelings of burnout, when they first experienced burnout, how
frequently they have experienced feelings of burnout, and
how they typically deal with feelings of burnout. They also
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rated how many particular factors including salary, education-
al setting, relationship with coworkers, support from state and
national organizations, support from administration, insignif-
icant recognition of work, level of access to resources, level of
parent involvement, extenuating personal circumstances, role
overload, and poor fit with training contributed to current
feelings of burnout. Open-ended questions solicited partici-
pantsdefinition of burnout and beliefs about how school
psychology training programs might mitigate the issue of
burnout.
The SPSBQ was developed in an effort to address the spe-
cific variables identified by previous research as correlated
with the general experience of burnout in school psycholo-
gists. Initial validity of this measure was established by incor-
porating these variables into an overall conception of burnout
in the field as represented by this measure (Schilling and
Randolph 2017).
Maslach Burnout Inventory The Maslach Burnout
Inventory (Maslach and Jackson 1986)forHuman
Services professionals was administered to participants
to examine feelings of Emotional Exhaustion (9 items),
Depersonalization (5 items), and Personal Accom-
plishment (8 items). Emotional exhaustion measures the
degree to which individuals report feeling emotionally
depleted in relation to work. Depersonalization measures
the degree to which health service providers have started
to view clients with less personal attachment and connec-
tion. Personal Accomplishment measures self-efficacy as
it relates to work experiences. Items were rated on a 6-
point Likert scale ranging from 0, BNever,^to 6, BEvery
Day.^For each scale, participants could be placed into
categories based on their reports of emotional exhaustion,
depersonalization, and personal accomplishment. For
Emotional Exhaustion, categorization was as follows:
Low (scores 016), Moderate (scores 1726), and High
(scores 27 and higher). For Depersonalization, categoriza-
tionwasasfollows:Low(scores06), Moderate (scores
712), and High (scores 13 and higher). For Personal
Accomplishment, categorization was as follows: Low
(scores 031), Moderate (scores 3238), and High (scores
39 and higher). High scores on the first two scales,
Emotional Exhaustion and Depersonalization are consid-
ered indicators of burnout. In contrast, low scores on
Personal Accomplishment are considered indicators of
burnout.
The three-factor structure underlying the construct of job
burnout as portrayed on the MBI has been well supported.
Additionally, Chronbachs alpha ratings of .90 for the
Emotional Exhaustion scale, .76 for the Depersonalization
scale, and .76 for the Personal Accomplishment scale have
been reported indicating acceptable to excellent levels of in-
ternal consistency of the items representing these scales
(Iwanicki and Schwab 1981). Test-retest reliability for the
MBI is also acceptable with a reliability coefficient ranging
from .60 to .82 over a 4-week span.
Procedures
Participants were solicited through contacting leaders in
school psychology state associations and requesting them to
send surveys to their membership. Online surveys were ad-
ministered through Qualtrics and responses were analyzed
using SPSS.
Results
Descriptive Data Regarding Feelings of Burnout
The overwhelming majority (90%) of participants reported
having experienced feelings of burnout in their role as a school
psychologist. The mean age of the participants that reported
they had not experienced burnout was not significantly youn-
ger [F(1, 108) = .33, p= .57] than those who had experienced
burnout. The point in ones career when participants first ex-
perienced burnout varied from their first year into their careers
(5.26%) to more than 20 years into their careers (6.32%).
Descriptive statistics regarding the frequency of current feel-
ings of burnout experienced by participants are provided in
Tab le 1.
Participants reported that they employ several different
strategies for dealing with burnout, including talking to co-
workers (73.7%), attempting to change the situation that has
caused feelings of burnout (53.7%), doing something to dis-
tract themselves (53.7%), talking with family (53.7%), talking
with friends (43.2%), and engaging in some other behavior
such as yoga, meditation, medication, and physical activity
(34.7%).
Contributing Factors to Burnout
Participants were asked to rate the degree to which a variety of
factors have contributed to their feelings of burnout. The fac-
tors that were identified as contributing the most to burnout
were support from administration and role overload. The
Tabl e 1 Reported frequency of current feelings of burnout
Frequency of current burnout feelings No. Percentage
Never 14 11.6
Sometimes 69 56.8
Often 36 29.5
Always 3 2.1
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factors that were identified as contributing the least to burnout
included support from state and national organizations and
poor fit with training. Table 2provides percentages for ratings
falling in the two extreme categories (Bnot at all^and Balot^)
for contributing factors.
With regard to satisfaction, participants were asked what
has been the outcome of their feelings of burnout. Thirty per-
cent of respondents reported that they are planning to stay in
their current job, 21.7% reported that they are thinking about
leaving for another job, 18.9% reported that they are thinking
about leaving the field, and 29.3% indicated that they are not
currently experiencing feelings of burnout.
Qualitative Analysis
Participants provided several ideas for ways that training pro-
grams can prepare graduate students to handle burnout. A
content analysis of participantsresponses to this question
resulted in an identification of the following main recommen-
dations from practitioners: emphasize the importance to stu-
dents of self-care and stress release, train students to handle a
range of mental and behavioral health issues in students, pro-
vide a more realistic picture of the roles of psychologists in the
schools, focus more on Breal^practices rather than best prac-
tices, prepare students for other options of practice outside of
the schools, provide more training with organization and pa-
perwork, and increase focus on systems-level roles. The cate-
gories that were most frequently mentioned by participants
were related to self-care and stress management and the mis-
match between training programs and their experiences and
roles in the Breal world.^Many participants identified their
training programs as being out of touch with practices in the
field. Training programs tended to focus on best practices,
rather than what actually happens in schools. Programs also
tended to emphasize the multifaceted nature of the position,
when the practice of the jobtendedtobemoreone-
dimensional (i.e., assessment focused) with a good bit of ad-
ministrative work.
Maslach Burnout Inventory Results
Participants completed the MBI as a measure of feelings of
emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accom-
plishment related to burnout. The Emotional Exhaustion scale
measures feelings of being emotionally depleted as a function
of ones work. For this sample, the mean score on the
Emotional Exhaustion scale was 24.8 (SD = 11.2). Using the
categorization system provided by the instrument, 45.6% of
the sample scored in the High range, 27.7% scored in the
Moderate range, and 26.7% scored in the Low range for emo-
tional exhaustion.
The Depersonalization scale measures feelings of imper-
sonal connection and care for clients one is serving. For this
sample, the mean score on the Depersonalization scale was
4.9 (SD = 4.4). Using the categorization system provided by
the instrument, 5.9% of the sample scored in the High range,
27.7% scored in the Moderate range, and 66.4% scored in the
Low range for depersonalization.
The Personal Accomplishment scale measures feelings of
self-efficacy related to ones work. For this sample, the mean
score on the Personal Accomplishment scale was 36.2
(SD = 6.7). For this scale, low scores are an indicator of burn-
out. Using the categorization system provided by the instru-
ment, 25.7% of the sample scored in the Low range, 33.7%
scored in the Moderate range, and 40.6% scored in the High
range for personal accomplishment.
Discussion
Burnout has been defined as a state of physical, mental, and
emotional exhaustion experienced within the context of ones
work (Mayo Clinic 2012). Job burnout appears to occur
among workers in all professions for a variety of reasons. In
the field of school psychology, the construct of burnout has
not been studied as widely as in other school personnel in-
cluding teachers. Ninety percent of the participants in the cur-
rent study reported experiencing burnout at some point in their
careers as school psychologists, a much higher rate than the
1015% expressing some level of dissatisfaction with their
jobs in previous studies (Anderson et al. 1984; Worrell et al.
2006). These differences may be attributed to a number of
factors. For example, it should be noted that while the current
study asked participants specifically to indicate whether they
have ever experienced feelings of burnout, previous studies
have focused more on overall reported feelings of job satis-
faction among practitioners. That is, it is reasonable to believe
that a school psychologist may feel largely satisfied with his/
her job but may also experience some feelings of burnout from
time to time in specific areas of their professional lives. The
differences may signify a generational shift, with practicing
school psychologists now experiencing more burnout than
Tab le 2 Percentage of participants identifying each factor as a
significant contributor to their feelings of burnout
Contributing factor BNotatall^BAlot^
Salary
Setting
Relationship with coworkers
Support from state/national organizations
Support from administration
Insignificant recognition
Level of access to resources
Level of parent involvement
Extenuating personal circumstances
Role overload
Poor fit with training
16.8
15.0
34.6
61.7
6.5
13.1
19.6
26.2
40.2
4.7
53.3
23.4
35.5
10.3
0
45.8
31.8
26.2
11.2
3.7
62.6
5.6
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even 11 years ago. That being said, rates of lifetime feelings of
burnout expressed by participants in the current study are con-
sistent with results of a more recent study indicating that 92%
of school psychologists have experienced feelings of burnout
at some point in their careers (Schilling and Randolph 2017).
Given that the current study surveyed practitioners in the
Southeastern USA, results are also consistent with previous
findings that school psychologists practicing in this region of
the county often experience work characteristics (e.g., higher
assessment caseloads) reflecting the potential for experiencing
higher feelings of role overload (Schilling and Randolph
2017).
Feelings of job burnout were measured quantitatively in the
current study using the conceptualization of this construct of-
fered by Maslach and Jackson (1986) consisting of three dis-
tinct components: feelings of emotional exhaustion, deperson-
alization and a lower sense of personal accomplishment.
Participants in the present study noted the highest ratings of
burnout related emotional exhaustion. These results are con-
sistent with previous studies linking feelings of overload in
response to job responsibilities with burnout (Schilling and
Randolph 2017;Wangetal.2016).Thefactthatparticipants
in the current study reported relatively lower feelings of de-
personalization and higher feelings of personal accomplish-
ment fits with data form other studies indicating that school
psychologists report serving the needs of others and feeling
that they are making a difference as the most positive aspects
of their jobs (Gibson et al. 2009; Singh et al. 2016; Unruh and
McKellar 2013; VanVoorhis and Levinson 2006;Wangetal.
2016).
In regard to factors typically leading to increased feel-
ings of burnout, previous research has indicated that
school/job-related characteristics including salary, school
policy, lack of advancement opportunities, a greater need
for crisis intervention services, and being assigned to mul-
tiple schools are particularly relevant (Bolnik and Brock
2005; Unruh and McKellar 2013; VanVoorhis and
Levinson 2006). This study confirmed many of these re-
sults indicating that burnout is often determined by a com-
bination of factors, particularly related to role overload and
lack of available support from others to deal with subse-
quent difficult feelings about ones job.
Protective factors allowing individuals to better deal with
feelings of burnout have also been investigated through pre-
vious research, and indicate that supportive supervisors and
co-workers and increased feelings of self-efficacy, as well as a
sense of resilience in being able to deal with difficult situa-
tions, are particularly useful (Gibson et al. 2009; Richards
et al. 2016; Singh et al. 2016). Results of the current study
confirmed many of these with the following strategies noted
as particularly useful: talking with co-workers, engaging in
solution-focused problem solving methods, and stress reduc-
tion techniques.
When examining participantsresponses to a question on
the SPSBQ regarding what training programs can do to miti-
gate the issue of burnout in the field, results from the current
study were both consistent and inconsistent with responses
from a previous study examining this question (Schilling
and Randolph 2017). Participants in both studies stressed the
need for training programs to provide a realistic picture of the
role of school psychologists (instead of a focus only on best
practices). In the current study, the second most common iden-
tified theme involved the importance of teaching self-care and
stress management versus teaching students how to self-
advocate for themselves within the school system as was iden-
tified as a major theme in participantsresponses in the previ-
ous study (Schilling and Randolph 2017).
Limitations and Future Directions
Limitations of this study include utilizing a relatively small
regional sample of practitioners in compared population of
school psychologists across the USA. Therefore, it will be
important for future research to examine the difficult issue of
burnout among practitioners in other areas of the country. A
further limitation exists in that the SPSBQ utilized in the cur-
rent study has not been previously validated as a measure of
burnout among school psychology practitioners. The decision
to create this survey in the context of a previous study
(Schilling and Randolph 2017) was made given the authors
assertion that a previously validated measure of job burnout
such as the MBI is not necessarily sensitive enough to pick up
on what factors more specific to the field of school psycholo-
gy may currently be contributing to feelings of burnout among
practitioners. As such, results from both of these instruments
were examined together in this study. It is suggested that fu-
ture research regarding the incidence of burnout in the field
continue to utilize such an approach.
Implications for School Psychologists, Schools,
and Training Programs
Results of the current study suggest that school psychologists
may experience greater levels of burnout than was once re-
ported. Additionally, a substantial number of participants in-
dicated considering leaving the field as a result of these feel-
ings. Participants in this study provided some valuable infor-
mation for training programs and employers regarding how
they may assist in preventing and/or dealing with burnout
when it occurs. Training programs may need to provide a
more realistic view to students of what the practice of school
psychology typically looks like in their region. This includes
moving beyond a focus on Bbest practices^to also regularly
discuss issues relevant to the day-to-day functioning of prac-
titioners within the school setting (i.e., working with school
administration, navigating professional relationships with
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coworkers, working with uncooperative individuals, address-
ing issues faced by school psychologists that may not have
reached the level of national attention or issues that may be
specific to certain areas of the country, etc.). Additionally,
while the role of the school psychologist should include con-
sultation, collaboration, and direct service provision, many
states still have psychologists that are predominately assessors
for eligibility. Students may feel a disconnection between their
training that emphasizes the multidimensional nature of
school psychology and the actual unidimensional nature of
being a school psychologist in their particular school.
Training programs might accomplish this goal more fully
through efforts such as providing more opportunities for prac-
titioners to provide some input regarding the material that is
covered in courses. For example, instructors of graduate-level
courses in school psychology programs might benefit from
sending out syllabi to practitioners in the region or members
of their advisory board before the start of a semester in order to
get feedback on whether topics covered are best reflective of
real-world practices. Programs could also incorporate events
in the form of roundtable discussions and other opportunities
for students to interact with school psychologists in the region
around issues affecting practice in schools. The current re-
searchersprogram does this with an advisory board. The
advisory board, composed of school psychologist from the
surrounding eight counties, meets with the faculty and current
graduate students once per semester to share issues from the
field and answer questions from the students. This meeting is
both formal (e.g., a roundtable discussion), and informal (e.g.,
including a dinner).
In the Schilling and Randolph (2017) study, participants
suggested trainers need to adequately teach graduate students
to advocate for themselves as practitioners (e.g., emphasizing
the role they can play in serving students and schools, teaching
them grant-writing skills to obtain needed resources, teaching
them how to work effectively within the larger community,
and how to determine and integrate community resources).
One of the practices the researchers have incorporated effec-
tively into their own training program to address this Breal
world^issue is involving students in a professional service
activity for 20 h across each semester. In this setting, they must
synthesize information from their training that is rarely a
stand-alone Bbest practice^but rather requires them to ana-
lyze multiple perspectives (e.g., staff, clients, parents, volun-
teers at the site, resources available) before developing a so-
lution. Students have responded positively to this activity,
indicating that it requires them to draw on a number of skills
only tangentially taught in the training program (e.g., time
management, organizational skills, communicating across a
wide range of individuals, and even developing marketing
materials for some of the programs they developed).
Training programs may also need to address (formally or in-
formally) one of the often-mentioned issues practitioners
mentioned: stress reduction. Programs may want to incorpo-
rate this as a small part of a course on the profession of school
psychologyor direct students to services their colleges or
universities provide for stress reduction (e.g., most universi-
ties have fitness centers or counseling center groups that offer
programs handling stressing).
Finally, there are protective factors that schools and train-
ing programs can help to ensure are in place (i.e., providing
adequate support in the form of supervision and access to
needed materials) to increase the likelihood that school psy-
chologists can prevent or address burnout early before it be-
comes a significant issue. Again, training programs can begin
to emphasize the importance of advocating for such supports
as graduates enter the field and schools can assist practitioners
in building the level of support needed in ultimately
diminishing the likelihood that feelings of burnout will occur.
It is believed by the authors that support in the form of ade-
quate post-graduate supervision can be particularly useful to
practitioners as they learn to navigate challenging workplace
dynamics and perceived impasses to effective service delivery.
This can be especially helpful for new practitioners as they
enter the field and can take the form of more formal weekly
supervision meetings or more informal mentoring relation-
ships with more senior colleagues. Establishing professional
mentorships between school psychologists that have been in
the field for an extended time and those that are at the early
stages of the career may also be beneficial. At the very least,
training programs may need to look at current issues practi-
tioners are facing in terms of their curriculum to determine if
they are preparing students to practice in the real worldor
what practitioners are indicating is the Breal world^for them.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest Statement The authors declare that they have no
conflict of interest.
Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding
agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
Ethical Approval All procedures performed in studies involving hu-
man participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the
institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964
Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical
standards.
Informed Consent Informed consent was obtained from all individual
participants included in this study.
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Ethan Schilling is an assistant professor of psychology at Western
Carolina University.
Mickey Randolph is a professor of psychology at Western Carolina
University.
Candace Boan-Lenzo is an associate professor of psychology at Western
Carolina University.
Contemp School Psychol
Author's personal copy
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