these concerns have been predominantly eradicated.
Professional stress comes in various forms
Our study found that burnout was the most frequent
stressor affecting psychotherapeutic effectiveness, though the
mean rating was still below the scale’s midpoint. Perhaps more
telling is that out of 260 surveys returned, 160 respondents
wrote in additional stressors they felt had affected their ability
to function effectively as a psychologist (an “other” line was
provided on the questionnaire). These difficulties varied widely,
ranging from suicidal patients to conflicts with co-workers. The
bulk of responses fell into four categories: difficulty working
with insurance companies, personal losses, family strife and
The frequency of these unprompted responses suggests that
psychologists are consistently operating under the strain of life
circumstances that are burdensome and intrusive.
Possible gender differences
Our results suggest that female psychologists are
struggling more with the effects of vicarious traumatization
and compassion fatigue than are their male counterparts.
Though reasons for this are not certain, it may be that women
experience a stronger natural caregiver response to their clients,
making it more difficult to maintain emotional distance from
the impact of traumatic events their clients experience.
Women also reported being affected by some barriers to
seeking psychotherapy to a greater degree than men. Finding an
acceptable therapist appears to be more problematic for women,
as do the challenges of limited time and money.
The explanations for these differences warrant further
investigation, but one possibility is that women may have
a higher expectation for the rapport between practitioner
and client, qualities that can be difficult to establish in an
introductory session or through a review of credentials. This
premise is supported by research that indicates women tend to
be more empathic than men, a characteristic that may lead to
higher expectations for this quality in a therapist (DiLalla, Hull,
& Dorsey, 2004). Meanwhile, research by Shapiro, Ingols, and
Blake-Beard (2008) indicated many women face a career/family
double bind in which they are expected to invest in both roles.
This conflict would seemingly increase the need for therapeutic
help, but it is also likely to make the time commitment of
psychotherapy infeasible (Shapiro et al., 2008). Concerns about
financial limitations may be related to this as well since women
who have more responsibilities at home may work fewer clinical
hours than men, resulting in less disposable income.
In addition, greater financial concerns among female
psychologists may be related to the disparity in compensation
between equally qualified women and men — APA’s 2009
Doctorate Employee Survey revealed that the median starting
salary for women who received their doctorates in psychology
was $8,000 lower than for their male counterparts (Michalski,
Kohout, Wicherski, & Hart, 2011).
attend via live
webcast in person at the APA building
include three CE credits
April 25 Making Professional
May 16 Creating Organizational
Cultures of Trauma-
June 20 Moving Your Psychology Practice
to Primary Care and Specialty
Medical Settings: Competencies,
Collaborations and Contracts
Fees APA Members
LIVE webcast: Visit http://apa.bizvision.com
and select Clinician’s Corner Webcasts
IN PERSON at the APA building
(Washington, DC): Call 1-800-374-2721,
ext. 5991, option 3
for more CE opportunities.
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