Associations between self-care practices and psychological adjustment of mental health professionals: a two-wave cross-lagged analysis

Anxiety Stress Coping. 2023 Sep;36(5):603-617. doi: 10.1080/10615806.2023.2178646. Epub 2023 Feb 15.


Cultivation of self-care is believed to foster more well-being and to mitigate the psychological difficulties that mental health professionals experience. However, how the well-being and psychological distress of these professionals impact their personal self-care practice is rarely discussed. In fact, studies have yet to investigate whether the use of self-care improves mental health, or whether being in a better place psychologically makes professionals more prone to using self-care (or both). The present study aims to clarify the longitudinal associations between self-care practices and five indicators of psychological adjustment (well-being, posttraumatic growth, anxiety, depression, and compassion fatigue). A sample of 358 mental health professionals were assessed twice (within a 10-month interval). A cross-lagged model tested all associations between self-care and psychological adjustment indicators. Results showed that self-care at T1 predicted increases in well-being and in post-traumatic growth, and a reduction in anxiety and depression at T2. However, only anxiety at T1 significantly predicted greater self-care at T2. No significant cross-lagged associations were found between self-care and compassion fatigue. Overall, findings suggest that implementing self-care is a good way for mental health workers to "take care of themselves." However, more research is needed to understand what leads these workers to use self-care.

Keywords: Self-care; cross-lagged model; distress; mental health professionals; psychological adjustment; well-being.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Compassion Fatigue*
  • Depression / therapy
  • Emotional Adjustment*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Self Care