Date of Award

1-1-1999

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Psychology

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Peter Prisgrove

Abstract

The level of burnout among a sample of Western Australian psychologists and a comparison of scores to the American normative sample of mental health workers was investigated. The study was also particularly interested to explore whether issues pertinent to the forensic psychologist were predictive of burnout. Burnout was measured by the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), which comprises three components: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and low personal accomplishment The study explored whether characteristics in relation to the psychologist, the client and the workplace had predictive value for the level of burnout. Variables considered across these characteristics were age and gender, client problem type and voluntary status of the client and work setting and caseload, respectively. Within these, variables considered more likely to occur within the forensic psychologist's work included, working predominantly with behavioural problems, involuntary clients and within a prison setting. Participants included 90 psychologists from a variety of work settings in Western Australia. The sample were found to be experiencing greater emotional exhaustion, but less depersonalization and particularly less burnout attributable to low personal accomplishment than their American counterparts. Despite the finding that over one fifth of the sample were experiencing emotional exhaustion, the overall prevalence of burnout across the components, particularly in relation to personal accomplishment, was low. In relation to the predictive value of the variables considered, multiple regression analyses were conducted for each burnout component. Findings suggest that working with clients in relation to behavioural issues, but particularly being a female had a significant main effect on burnout attributable to emotional exhaustion. Gender appears to be a significant predictor independently of all other variables considered. Further, findings suggest that working greater hours with clients could provide a buffering effect on burnout attributable to low personal accomplishment. None of the variables considered had any impact on depersonalization. Working in a prison setting and with involuntary clients did not predict burnout. Although working with predominantly behavioural issues is associated with forensic work, the overall findings challenge the assumption that psychologists working within the forensic arena are at increased risk of burnout

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