First Advisor

Eileen Brennan

Date of Publication

Summer 9-2-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work and Social Research


Social Work and Social Research




Burn out (Psychology), Mindfulness (Psychology), Social service -- Students



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 156 pages)


Social work students frequently endure elevated levels of prolonged stress and psychological affliction that might result in serious consequences, such as development of burnout. Some experts suggest that burnout originates in the exposure to chronic interpersonal stressors in the work environment. Yet, there is emerging evidence suggesting that mindfulness practice might be beneficial in alleviating stress. Thus, the purpose of this exploratory study was to examine the relationship between mindfulness and burnout among Master of Social Work students. Burnout, mindfulness, religiosity, spirituality and their potential relationship were discussed and related to previous scholarly literature. Specifically, this study focused on testing the hypothesis that current MSW students who demonstrate higher levels of mindfulness will report less burnout, regardless of the year in the MSW program and regardless of the years of practice in human services. In addition, the hypothesis that students currently involved in direct social work practice (either outside of the MSW program, in the MSW field placement, or both) experience higher levels of burnout than students not yet practicing was scrutinized. Moreover, the hypothesis that as students progress in their studies they will exhibit progressively more burnout was explored. Finally, one of this study's goals was to explore whether patterns/relationships between the religious and spiritual beliefs and practices predict burnout levels among Master of Social Work students. Participants were mostly non-Hispanic White females, with a mean age of 35, married (or in legally recognized unions), and first year students enrolled full-time in the Direct Human Services track. Two years was the most common length of their experience in human services. They came from the metropolitan Portland area (on-campus students) and other regions of Oregon (off-site students). The mindfulness of the participants was measured with the Five Facets Mindfulness Scale and the levels of their burnout with the Maslach Burnout Inventory. Study results indicated that the more mindful the MSW students were, the less burnout they reported experiencing. A large correlation of mindfulness to reduced burnout (p < .001) was found, a relationship that persisted when controlling for other significant variables through sequential regression analysis. However, neither year in the MSW program, length of practicing in human services, nor religious/spiritual affiliation and practices had any significant influence on burnout among participants. Given the results of this study demonstrated statistically significant relationships between mindfulness and burnout among social work students, it is recommended that appropriate training in mindfulness for the students (and social workers) affected by secondary trauma and burnout should be incorporated in social work education, either as a part of curricula, or in an extra-curricular training program.


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