Exploring stress, coping, and health outcomes among social workers

Exploring stress, coping, and health outcomes among social workers

Exploring stress, coping, and health outcomes among social workers

Beer, O. W. J., Phillips, R., & Quinn, C. R.

Abstract

The continued prevalence and severity of stress among social workers, despite previous efforts to address the phenomenon, implies that current prevention and intervention strategies are ineffective. This may be partly due to a needed shift in research from the quantification of stress, to understanding the role that individual cognitive, and emotional mechanisms play in work-related stress and coping behaviours. The specific objectives of this qualitative study were: (1) to understand social workers’ perceptions of work-related stressors, and (2) to explore social workers’ emotional and behavioural coping responses to work-related stress. Based on semi-structured interviews (n = 7), three key themes emerged: (1) challenges of the work environment, (2) impact of work-related stress, and (3) responses to work-related stress. Cognitive appraisals played a role not only how practitioners experience stress, but also the behavioural responses that follow. Furthermore, participants’ perceptions of social norms regarding emotional control and coping appeared to have multiple paths of influence. While there were individual differences in the specific environments, commonalities were also found regarding both experiencing stress and resultant coping efforts. Findings indicate the need for tailored interventions that specifically target social workers’ appraisals and behavioural mechanisms, in addition to the environmental factors that trigger these responses.

Citation

Beer, O. W. J., Phillips, R., & Quinn, C. R. (2020). Exploring stress, coping, and health outcomes among social workers. European Journal of Social Work, 24(2), 317-330. https://doi.org/10.1080/13691457.2020.1751591