Self-care behaviors, perceived stress, burnout, and affect among master's and doctoral-level mental health trainees
Keating, Niki L.
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The mental health field has recognized the importance of ongoing, preventative self-care for mental health practitioners. However, little is known about the self-care behaviors of mental health trainees. A longitudinal study was conducted to examine the relationship between self-care behaviors, burnout, perceived stress, and affect over the course of a semester among master's and doctoral level trainees in various mental health programs at a large northeastern university. Online self-report surveys were completed by 75 students at the beginning of a semester and 51 of these students completed part 2 of the study at the end of the semester. The majority of participants were female, Caucasian, and in their first or second year of training. Findings indicated that trainees engage in an average of 25 different self-care behaviors. The most frequently used behaviors are social support, problem solving, and training activity selections; the most effective behaviors were reported as social support, engaging in pleasurable activities, sleep, and expression of emotions. No differences were found between gender, age, or relationship status groups. First year students were found to use a significantly higher number of self-care strategies than advanced students and doctoral students reported a higher frequency of self-care behaviors than masters students. Frequency of self-care behaviors did not change over the course of the semester, but effectiveness ratings significantly increased from the beginning to the end of the semester. Personal accomplishment and positive affect predicted the majority of the variance in self-care frequency and effectiveness ratings above and beyond other burnout variables, negative affect, and perceived stress scores. Limitations of the study and implications for the mental health field and training programs are discussed.