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What Interventions Are Effective for Psychologist Burnout?

Findings from a systematic review on psychologist burnout and stress.

Key points

  • Psychologists are at high risk of stress and occupational burnout due to the nature of the profession.
  • Mindfulness interventions are promising for psychologist burnout, yet require further study for efficacy.
  • Despite research, a gold standard for burnout symptoms and interventions remains challenging.
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Burnout represents a significant challenge within the psychology profession.

Acknowledging the rigorous and often emotionally demanding journey from study to practice underlines the need to address burnout early in psychologists' careers.

In Australia, the pathway to becoming a registered psychologist is a long one, entailing 5-7 years of university education, followed by another 1-2 years of supervised practice to gain full registration or an endorsement.

Once registered, psychologists witness and process others' emotional demands. This can lead to burnout—a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion which affects both the healthcare worker and the quality of care they provide.

Of course, transient occupational stress is inevitable in any job and not necessarily harmful. However, the implications of burnout are more serious, impacting both the workers and the delivery of healthcare.

Where does that leave psychologists, particularly new graduates?

What does existing research say about interventions aimed at psychologists to help manage burnout and stress? That’s what we, the researchers, aimed to explore when we conducted a systematic review examining the existing literature on psychological interventions for burnout and stress in professional psychologists.

Here’s what the systematic review—titled "The Emotionally Exhausted Treating the Mentally Unwell"—found:

Sifting 4,831 records from research databases, we identified 15 studies that aligned with our criteria of interventions for burnout or stress among psychology professionals or those on the training pathway. Of the 15, seven utilised mindfulness interventions, three employed Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, three focused on self-care, and four explored cognitive interventions.

Prevalence in the Profession

Not surprisingly, stress and burnout are prevalent within the psychology profession. Burnout occurred at higher frequencies among psychology trainees and those in the earlier stages of their careers. Our systematic review revealed that approximately 60% of participants in all studies reported moderate to high stress (in studies that measured stress).

Although 10 of the 15 studies had clinically significant results, only 8 included effect sizes (a measure of the magnitude of change). Meaningful comparisons between studies proved challenging, as the studies varied between group interventions, online training courses, and programs and concurrent techniques.

The Challenge of Defining Burnout

One of the interesting observations to come out of the research is that there does not appear to be a ‘gold standard’ definition, nor a clear symptomology established, for burnout. Without a clear definition, it proves difficult for researchers to come to unanimous conclusions.

However, the 11th revision of the International Classifications for Diseases (ICD) once again added burnout as an occupational phenomenon, suggesting growing recognition of its impact on workers' health and productivity. This inclusion in the ICD marks a significant step towards standardising how burnout is understood and addressed across professional fields.

Addressing Stress to Combat Burnout?

As there is a lack of rigorous research in this field, the results of this review indicate the need for further research on effective interventions to reduce or prevent psychologist burnout.

However, mindfulness interventions showed promise for reducing stress. Since burnout can be conceptualised as the endpoint of stress, it may be that reducing psychologists' stress is the most effective approach to reducing burnout.


Bell, C., Roberts, G. L. R., Millear, P. M., Allen, A., Wood, A. P., Kannis-Dymand, L., Jona, C. M., & Mason, J. (2024). The emotionally exhausted treating the mentally unwell? A systematic review of burnout and stress interventions for psychologists. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 31(1), e2909.

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