ATMA Journey Centers

Research has demonstrated that individuals in helping professions are highly susceptible to compassion fatigue and occupational burnout.

Compassion Fatigue for Therapists

Compassion fatigue is common in trauma therapists who may be especially vulnerable due to regular involvement in trauma processing or desensitization over long periods of time. Therapists experiencing compassion fatigue suffer with negative emotions about work, may find themselves bored by or annoyed with their clients, or find that they’re happy when their clients reschedule or no-show.

Occupational Burnout for Therapists

Occupational burnout differs slightly from compassion fatigue. It is a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress and is characterized by fatigue, emotional exhaustion, negative feelings related to one’s job, and decreased feelings of personal accomplishment. 

Individuals experiencing burnout may avoid work, arrive late, leave early, and are much more likely to break ethical boundaries in their professions (Simionata and Simpson, 2018). Both therapists and psychiatrists alike are especially susceptible to burnout; nearly half of psychotherapists report burnout in their jobs. 

Risk Factors for Occupational Burnout for Therapists

Common risk factors for occupational burnout for therapists include a younger age, less work experience, and boundary issues, such as over-involvement in clients’ problems. In regards to psychiatry, a 2020 study by Summers et al. found that 78% of psychiatrists in their sample met criteria for burnout and 16% met criteria for major depressive disorder. In this study, full time scheduling, lack of control over scheduling, younger age, and non-academic work settings were all associated with higher levels of burnout.

Therapist Compassion Fatigue & Burnout Can Create Risk for Therapists and Clients

Therapists and psychiatrists alike are highly susceptible to burnout and compassion fatigue. Both are detrimental to the professional and client, and in addition to reduced clinical effectiveness, Delgadillo, Saxon, & Barkham (2018) suggest compassion fatigue and burnout are associated with poorer physical and mental health outcomes for therapists, as well as reports of therapist misconduct and ethical concerns. 

It can be argued that therapist self-care is even more important amongst psychedelic therapists, as these medicines place clients in highly vulnerable emotional states involving alterations in time, perception, and consciousness. Additionally, ethical concerns such as transference and countertransference are more prevalent phenomena with this type of medicine work. 

Therapist Self-Care Strategies are Critical

In order to minimize the risks associated with negative outcomes, therapist wellness is of the utmost importance. Ethically, therapists who are considering psychedelic-assisted therapy training must ensure they are taking the time to nurture their own needs, not only in the interest of their own mental and physical health outcomes, but also for the safety of their clients and the clinical effectiveness of their work. 

ATMA has a self-care programs for therapists available that can help support you as you continue to do the work of taking care of others. 

As many ethical codes for psychotherapy licensing bodies state: Do No Harm.  Rachel Dundas, R Psych Writer

Interested in adding psychedelic therapy into your practice?

Download the Psychedelic Basic’s Guide now for more information on how you can safely and effectively integrate psychedelic-assisted therapy into your practice. 

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