Emotional labor and emotional exhaustion in psychologists: Preliminary evidence for the protective role of self-compassion and psychological flexibility

James J. Clarke, Clare S. Rees, Vincent O. Mancini, Lauren J. Breen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The emotional exhaustion component of burnout is concerningly prevalent in psychologists providing psychotherapy. Emotional labor is a known contributor to burnout through the pathway of emotional dissonance and is beginning to develop attention in psychologist wellbeing literature. Although the relationship between emotional dissonance and emotional exhaustion in psychologists has been observed previously, constructs within an individual's locus of control that affect this relationship are not known. We attempted to explore possible variables that may affect emotional dissonance's relationship with emotional exhaustion in psychologists to identify possible factors amenable to future interventions aimed at improving psychologist wellbeing. Specifically, we examined how self-compassion, psychological flexibility, and career experience may affect the relationship between emotional dissonance and emotional exhaustion. We conducted a path analysis on data gathered from 454 psychologists recruited internationally. Results indicated that self-compassion may affect burnout indirectly through the mechanism of emotional dissonance. Additionally, results suggest that psychological flexibility may exert a conditional effect on the relationship between emotional dissonance and emotional exhaustion such that higher rates of psychological flexibility may weaken this relationship. We found no evidence to support career experience's hypothesized conditional effects. Our findings provide the first examination of these constructs in this occupational group and support the potential role of self-compassion and psychological flexibility in assisting psychologists to improve their wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100724
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Contextual Behavioral Science
Volume31
Early online date26 Jan 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

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