In the human services field, burning out is acommon problem that presents itself quite frequently. This is evident by thechallenges presented by surrounding ourselves in high intensity workenvironments with increasing challenging behaviors (Gutierrez, 2016). Whenpeople begin to burn out they start to have a lack of drive and are no longerworking to their highest potential. This can become problematic because it canlead to non-therapeutic relationships with the people we support. According toGutierrez, it is our ethical responsibility as care workers to know the limitsof our own emotions and the skill of self-monitoring ourselves to avoidnon-therapeutic or abusive situations (2016).
The self-monitoring of emotionsends up being a skill that many people struggle with unknowingly. By not havinga hold on a person’s emotions, it can cause burn out when working with apopulation that deals with crisis situations. By implementing more in-depthstaff training on emotional intelligence, we may be able to avoid burn out withstaff. This could also lead to more therapeutic and meaningful relationshipswith the people that we support. According to Howard Gardner, emotionalintelligence is defined as a person’s ability to understand motivations behindactions based on emotions of oneself and others (Scott, 2017). This can bemeasured in five categories; social awareness, self-regulation, motivation,empathy and social skills (Scott, 2017). Social awareness focuses on how aperson understands and identifies their own feelings and emotions. A personwith high social awareness also has accompanied self-confidence.
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This is due toa high level of recognition of one’s own abilities to understand themselves andtheir self-worth. A person who is able to self-regulate has a handle on theirown self-control. They are able to adapt to situations accordingly and have aninnovative mindset when presented with different situations. Some traits of aperson who has high self-regulation include trustworthiness andconscientiousness. Motivation can be defined as a person’s drive andcommitment.
A person with high motivation is typically more optimistic andtends to take the initiative in different situations. Empathy includes aperson’s ability to support and understand others. A person who is empathetictypically encourages diversity and has a high level of political awareness. Havinga base knowledge of these areas can increase your emotional intelligence whichcould lead to handling a crisis situation in an appropriate manner (Scott, 2017).High emotional intelligence also encompassessocial skills.
Some traits included with this are advanced communication andleadership skills. A person with developed social skills is also able to handleconflict management and team building with a more equal viewpoint (Scott, 2017).In this profession, we tend to see that the leaders on the floor including thesupervisors and assistants struggle the least with social skills as well asburn out. This could potentially be due to the experience that they have gainedfrom the length of time that they have been in the field or due to theirincreased training on various topics that other staff do not have access to. In a field that deals with so much burn out,it is important that we find a solution that takes into account the mostimportant aspects of this job. With such high crisis situations, it is evidentthat professionals working with this population need a hold on their ownemotions before they are able to accurately help others work through theiremotions. According to Amaddeo, professionals that are constantly working withindividuals who have prolonged crisis situations can lead to side effects ofburn out including “depression, anxiety, intrusive imagery, numbing andavoidance phenomena, cognitive shifts, as well as social and relationalproblems” (2017). Most of these side effects are the result ofa psychological change that occurs when a person is in a stressful environment.
These negative side effects can cause problems with building and fosteringrelationships with the people we support. It is our job to avoid negativeinteractions with the people we support and help them live more meaningfullives. We tend to do this by setting an example for how they can appropriatelyhandle their own emotional outbreaks. By encouraging our staff to be more awareof their own emotional regulation, these skills will be able to be observed andmimicked by the people we support. There are many different psychologicalfactors that play into the reasons that people experience burn out in varyingtime frames including length of experience, attendance at training, workenvironment and coping styles (Amaddeo, 2017). By increasing staff’s awarenessof their emotional reaction to crisis situation and training appropriate copingskills, burn out may be able to be avoided and situations will be handled in adifferent way. This would prevent the increase in burn out that peopleexperience in this field. Ideally, our goal would be to decrease any attributesto burn out, but it is also important to focus on the more common problemareas.
This would include our staff’s reaction to immediate crisisintervention. Emotional intelligence is a difficult conceptfor many people to learn. When teaching a topic so complex as emotionalintelligence, it is important to incorporate active learning.
According toConnolly, emotional intelligence is a topic that is typically learned throughlife experiences; active learning would be the ideal learning style because itwould help improve people’s ability to retain information (2017). Humans have atendency to respond with their flight or fight response. By increasing skillssuch as self-awareness, we are able to remove ourselves from a situation andreflect on our reaction rather than react immediately (Grafton, 2012).
One way of training these skills would be through role playingpotential situations that tend to arise in our field. By role playing these situations, we areable to reenact any instances that a person may have felt like they did nothandle in the best way, or to show newer staff typical situations that occurdaily. Not only would this allow people to evaluate and reflect on howthey handled a specific situation, but it would also allow staff to putthemselves in someone else’s shoes to help them become more genuine whenempathizing or counseling. By incorporating this into training regimentsor staff meetings, it will give staff the appropriate tools to fine tune theirresponse when quickly entering a crisis situation. This would not only benefitthe staff members general well-being, but it will also help preventnon-therapeutic situations with the people we support. According to Ameddio:In order to provide adequate mental healthservices, managers need to provide their employees with adequate ergonomicconditions, paying special attention to time pressures. Building trustfulrelationships with management and within teams is also crucial.
Training andmeeting are other important targets for potential improvement, and although howmeetings and the need for training are perceived might depend on the motivationof members of staff themselves. (2017)Without a push from management, it is nearimpossible to create the motivational push needed for staff members to see theimportance of increasing their emotional intelligence. There are so manyfactors that play into burn out that can be avoided including workload demandas well as knowing when someone needs to step off of the floor. We areconstantly told that if you are in a situation that is too much to handle, youcan step away from it. Although this is good practice for maintaining atherapeutic response to crisis, many people struggle with leaving the situationdue to a feeling of failure to accurately and appropriately handle it. By creating an annual training course onestablishing and maintaining high levels of emotional intelligence, we will beable to move away from this idea that we are failing because we cannot handle asituation. It will teach staff that it is more important in that situation towalk away rather than attempt to handle a crisis situation inappropriately. Itwill also give staff the appropriate tools to reflect on their response beforethey jump into action.
By incorporating extra training forincreasing emotional intelligence, there would be many other benefits alongwith reducing burn out with staff. A recurring topic that continues to be aproblem area for this job setting is the high stress environment. This is oneof the main causes for burn out, but high stress can also be due to other workpressures including meeting deadlines, conflict with others, and changes in theworkplace (Chadha, 2017). According to Chadha, higher levels of emotionalintelligence were related to lower levels of perceived stress, social anxiety,and better coping abilities (2017).
Decreasing these stresses that people face inthe work place, will also give people the skills to incorporate their copingabilities into their daily lives. These skills will not only create betterrelationships between direct support professionals and the people they support,but it will also create a more positive work environment. This change willassist in fostering an increase in all aspects of job performances. The training for higher emotionalintelligence among staff members will encompass each aspect including socialawareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. In a studydone by Bagheri, there was an increase in emotional intelligence by trainingwith multiple sessions. The biggest improvement began with the base knowledgeabout emotions. According to Bagheri:Training emotion regulation started withgiving knowledge about emotions, functions of emotions and the role of emotionsin interpersonal relationship and cognitive activities. It seems that lack ofemotion regulation knowledge is a very important contributor to inability toregulate emotions.
(2016)We tend to assume that everyone understandsthe basic knowledge behind counseling a person we support through a crisis. Itis often forgotten that most people have outside support systems when they areunable to control or understand their own emotions. By incorporating a trainingwith basic knowledge and understanding of emotions, we allow people the toolsto break down every stressful response they may want to react with.Increasing emotional intelligence has manybenefits to a person’s well-being and understanding of emotional stressors. Bycreating trainings that focus heavily on the basis of emotional regulation andawareness, we would be giving our staff the tools necessary to form therapeuticrelationships with the people we support. The hope behind these trainings wouldbe that staff would utilize their skills in the work place as well as theirdaily lives in order to decrease the amount of stress they encompass. In doingso, the benefit would be less burn out for all of the staff working with peoplewho have very challenging behaviors.