By Jessica Handelsman, Ph.D.
A Doctoral Dissertation Defended 2011
Although it has been the focus of thousands of publications over the past several decades, relatively few empirical studies have examined the development of burnout among mental health service providers (MHPs). Research on other types of human service workers has demonstrated that certain emotion regulation strategies, known as emotional labor (i.e., deep acting and surface acting), are differentially associated with burnout. The present study aims to fill a gap in the literature by evaluating the empirical links between work stressors (i.e., role conflict, role ambiguity, and lack of autonomy), personality (i.e., extraversion), emotional labor, and burnout in a sample of MHPs. A series of correlation/regression analyses will be used to test the following hypotheses: (1) Work stressors will be positively related to burnout, but these relationships will be partially moderated by extraversion; (2) Emotional labor strategies will account for significant variance in burnout, with surface acting being positively, and deep acting being negatively, related to burnout; (3) Extraversion will be negatively related to surface acting, but positively related to deep acting; (4) Work stressors will be positively related to overall emotional labor; (5) Work stressors will be more strongly positively related to surface acting in individuals with lower extraversion; (6) Work stressors will be more strongly negatively related to deep acting in individuals with lower extraversion; (7) Emotional labor will partially mediate the positive relationships between work stressors and burnout.