Volume 30, 2011 – Issue 3: Social Work, Spirituality, and Social Practices
The demands placed on human service workers in supporting people through challenging circumstances can contribute to high levels of stress and burnout. Self-care practices implemented regularly may decrease the impact of the high levels of stress while also serving as strategies for coping during particularly stressful times. The interconnections between contemplative practices, including mindfulness, as coping and preventative strategies for self-care practice among human service workers are beginning to emerge. We used a multimethod study to examine the effectiveness of eight weeks of contemplative practice training in increasing self-care, awareness, and coping strategies for 12 human service workers. Paired t-tests conducted on pre- and post-training scores on the Perceived Stress Scale and the Mindfulness Attention and Awareness Scale showed that mindfulness was significantly increased and that stress significantly decreased over the intervention. Thematic analysis from participant journaling and a focus group discussion suggests that time, permission, and place for learning and practicing mindfulness-based activities are necessary. A meditative model is presented to illustrate how enhanced awareness through mindfulness practice can increase self-care which can, in turn, positively affect the service human service workers provide to their clients.