Road to help-seeking among (dedicated) human service professionals with burnout

Patient Educ Couns. 2011 Apr;83(1):49-54. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2010.01.004. Epub 2010 Feb 10.


Objective: Describe and interpret the process of help-seeking among human service professionals with burnout.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 participants. Analysis was conducted using principles of grounded theory.

Results: All participants were dedicated and responsible workers, selflessly giving themselves to their work. Work was demanding, and often included some form of organisational change. After a period of time the problems of ill health appeared, since persons were overstretching their resources. However, the symptoms were denied, since the image of the ideal worker has been internalised and persons expected maximum performance from themselves. They kept on working hard and delayed the help-seeking process. Eventually, help was sought for medical symptoms or by talking to the supervisors. If postponed for too long, persons experienced a breaking point.

Conclusion: Human service professionals with burnout internalise the ideal image of their professional role. They strive to keep this ideal image at the cost of their own needs, taking a long time to seek help for the obstacles they encounter.

Practice implications: More awareness raising is needed in order to recognise early burnout symptoms. Particularly crucial in this process are supervisors and doctors, who have an authority role over employees.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Denial, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Time Factors