Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Psychotherapists-Religious life, Psychotherapiest-Job stress, Psychotherapists-Mental health, Secondary traumatic stress-Treatment, Buddhism-Psychology, Psychotherapy-Religious aspects-Buddhism, Meditation, Spirituality, Vicarious trauma, Secondary trauma, Burnout, Job stress, Resilience, Burn out (Psychology)-Prevention


This qualitative study sought to explore whether Buddhist practice is supportive to psychotherapists at risk for developing burnout and vicarious trauma. Eleven psychotherapists, practicing within the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, were interviewed. They were asked to reflect upon the risks and benefits of their clinical work and their work environments. Participants were Masters level clinicians from a range of professional backgrounds, with caseloads including at least three individuals with a trauma history. Participants identified inspiring aspects of their work, as well as aspects of their work they find discouraging or stressful. Participants were asked how they cope with work related stressors. In addition, they were asked to discuss whether their spiritual practice helps them to cope with symptoms of vicarious trauma and burnout. All the therapists interviewed identified coping strategies related to their Buddhist practice as particularly helpful to them. Every participant indicated that both the view and practice of Buddhism were supportive to them in coping with job stress. Practices identified as helpful to clinicians were: mindfulness-awareness meditation and the practice of tonglen. Participants cited Buddhist views of impermanence, basic goodness, egolessness, and suffering as helpful cognitive frameworks to manage work related stress.




iii, 108 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2009. Includes bibliographical references (p. 99-102)