Teacher Distress and the Role of Experiential Avoidance

Psychol Sch. 2015 Mar;52(3):284-297. doi: 10.1002/pits.21821.


Teachers' psychological wellbeing is important for teachers and students, but is highly stressful, particularly in special education. We examined the role of experiential avoidance (EA) in the wellbeing of 529 middle and elementary school teachers. EA involves the tendency to avoid thoughts, feelings, and other internal experiences even when doing so causes long-range consequences. Using a teacher-specific measure, we investigated its relationship to stress associated with student misbehavior and limited social support. We assessed EA's relationship to burnout and depression, finding EA significantly and moderately correlated with depression and all scales of Maslach's Burnout Inventory. Mediation analyses showed EA mediated the relationship between stress associated with student behavior and measures of wellbeing. We found 26.8% of teachers mildly, 8.9% moderately, and 2.8% moderately severely or severely depressed. This evidence concurs with studies showing the value of mindfulness-based interventions and points to the utility of implementing interventions aimed at decreasing EA in teachers.