Development of the Professional Self-care Scale for Psychologists
Research has consistently demonstrated that the specialized demands of psychological work increase the risk of developing burnout among mental health professionals (e.g., Acker, 2011; Radey & Figley, 2007; Rohland, 2000; Smith, 2007). Although stress management and self-care practices may be encouraged for clients, it has been suggested that psychologists may not listen to their own instruction (DeAngelis, 2002). Research and clinical study of the functioning of professional psychologists is currently experiencing a paradigm shift. Previous literature primarily focused on the negative impact of stress on functioning and what individuals can do to mitigate the consequences of burnout. However, it is not simply enough to know the factors associated with professional impairment. Professional psychology research is shifting from intervention with impaired psychologists to prevention of professional burnout through the promotion of self-care strategies (e.g. Barnett & Cooper, 2009; Coster & Schwebel, 1997; Wise et al., 2012).
The goal of the present study is to develop a comprehensive, empirically derived, and psychometrically sound measure of self-care. While instruments exist to assess stress and burnout, there are no measures of self-care among mental health professionals. In order to create a self-care measure the current project involves three phases. Phase 1 involved a comprehensive review of the literature and establishment of a theoretical framework, construct definition, and self-care items for the study. Phase 2 involved an expert evaluation of items and modification of items based on their feedback. The project is currently in Phase 3 – which involves the administration of the self-care items to a large sample of licensed, professional psychologists. The data will then be analyzed to assess individual items, determine optimal scale length, and examine validity of the scale. The scale will then be confirmed on a second sample of licensed clinical psychologists.
Ultimately, by creating a self-care instrument and identifying factors that promote self-care, the field of psychology can work to ameliorate burnout, promote professional competency, and shape conscientious professionals (Richards et al., 2010; Wise, 2008). With the growth of positive psychology and preventative medicine, a reliable, valid measure of self-care is needed for the construct to be systematically studied in research and clinical settings.