Combatting Counselor Exhaustion: Neurofeedback Versus Mindfulness
Counselor exhaustion is a phenomenon that is experienced by counseling practitioners. Professional counselors work in a field where they listen to clients’ stories filled with pain and trauma. Counselors are at risk for developing counselor exhaustion defined as vicarious trauma, secondary traumatic stress, compassion fatigue, and burnout. Counselor exhaustion can be experienced through affective distress, shifts in cognitive schemas following secondary exposure to traumatic material, and/or in body aches and pains. To help counselors promote mental health wellness, Neurofeedback will be studied as a self-care strategy. In efforts to treat, neurofeedback is noted as an evidence-based treatment practice for those experiencing the physiological and psychological effects known to be symptoms of trauma. The aim of this study was to explain the challenges counselors face when working with clients with trauma and to explore the benefits of utilizing neurofeedback with counselors experiencing various levels of counselor exhaustion. Using the lens of the Constructivist Self-Development theory, data was analyzed from two self-report assessments, Quality-of-Life Inventory and Traumatic and Attachment Beliefs Scale, along with brain data from pre/post qEEGs. For my study, 24 professional counselors were recruited, all of whom self-reported experiencing various levels of counselor exhaustion. A total of 21 completed the study. This study served two main purposes, in which six research questions were examined. The first area of interest was to understand how neurofeedback reduced counselor exhaustion and increase overall life satisfaction in professional counselors (Research Questions 1, 2, and 5). The second area of interest was to understand how the effects of neurofeedback on counselor exhaustion differed in the results of those who participated in a mindfulness training experience (Research Questions 3, 4, and 6). Data analysis included descriptive outcomes with SPSS and built-in analysis software for EEG. I hypothesized that the post scores would show improvements from the neurofeedback treatment. I provided a discussion of the results and implications for the fields of neurofeedback and the counseling profession.
Keywords: counselor exhaustion, neurofeedback treatment, mindfulness training, qEEG