Two Ways to Foster Resilience

The first aspect of building resilience is focused on our personal self-care and wellness. The idea of building resilience necessitates the discussion of personal self-care and management of our work-life balance. It is important to remember that self-care which builds resilience is based on an active and engaged process. Self-care requires engagement in life fulfilling activities outside the office that strengthen our resolve, bolster our energy, and rebuild confidence in our professional abilities (Thompson, Frick, & Trice-Black, 2011). Coaston (2017) explains that helping professionals have a duty to take care of themselves, remain effective, and practice what they preach.

This practice of deliberate self-care is not based on a passive involvement in already existing life activities. The focus and encouragement here are to pursue those sustainable activities that will carry you over the long run. It is important to note that human service workers with more years of experience in the field have been found to report lower levels of burnout (Lim, Kim, Kim, Yang, & Lee, 2010), likely pointing to skills and practices that have sustained them. This process of developing sustainable, resilience-building self-care activities is a personal pursuit. Sadler-Gerhardt and Stevenson (2011) recommends that the provider start with a personal accounting of “physical, emotional, intellectual, behavioral, social, and spiritual domains” (p. 5). After an intimate accounting of these life areas, we can better determine where we need to focus our resilience-building attention. Instead of taking a prescriptive approach about what you should do it is best to challenge yourself with these reflective questions. How are you creating meaning in your life? Are you connected to others? Do you have guiding life principles? Are you challenging yourself intellectually? Are you taking care of your body? Do you have enough emotional support?

The second part of building resilience against burnout focuses on changing our thinking. Compassion satisfaction is at the heart of using our cognition to alter the perception of our day-to-day work and vocation. Compassion satisfaction is the purposeful effort and direct action of seeking to acknowledge the good we derive from our work (Stamm, 2010). Stamm (2010, p. 12) explains that:

Compassion satisfaction is about the pleasure you derive from being able to do your work well. For example, you may feel like it is a pleasure to help others through your work. You may feel positively about your colleagues or your ability to contribute to the work setting or even the greater good of society.

Our field thrives on a selfless attitude toward our work. It is not uncommon for us to work extra hours, spend extended time with a client, process a crisis with staff after hours, stay on-call after hours, or struggle to leave work at work. Compassion satisfaction requires that we move toward a more self-focused view of our work. We need to give ourselves permission to bask in the enjoyment of our vocational calling and the good feelings we get from the work we do. There is immense meaning in helping people face the problems of life (Skovholt, 2012). Sadler-Gerhardt & Stevenson (2011, p. 5) reminds us of the proactive nature of fostering compassion satisfaction:

Building resilience does not happen by chance, but instead is based on active practice of decisions that lead to wellness and health. Many believe that the key to prevention of compassion fatigue is discovery and reinforcement of “compassion satisfaction,” those activities that yield a sense of satisfaction from working with clients.

When considering how to foster compassion satisfaction and resilience, self-reflection is of utmost importance. This self-reflection can start in the form of questions we work to answer on our own or with our colleagues. This article will leave you with a few key questions to begin your journey toward fostering compassion satisfaction and increased resilience over burnout:

  • Why did you go into this line of work?
  • What do you like about helping people?
  • What benefits do you derive from helping your clients?
  • What self-care practices can you engage in to build personal resilience?

Author Biography:

Jeremiah Schimp, Ph.D., CPRP, has been working in the mental health field for the past 14 years, holding leadership positions in community and residential programs. He currently holds the position of intake supervisor at an intensive residential treatment program with Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. He oversees admissions, supports programming, and staff development and provides training. In addition, he is an adjunct psychology instructor at Concordia University, St. Paul and University of the People. He teaches counseling, research, personality, cognitive psychology, and health psychology. Schimp’s research and training interests are in the area of burnout and resiliency in mental health workers. He has provided trainings on burnout to groups of mental health providers at conferences and workshops. He earned his Ph.D. in psychology from Walden University with a specialization in health psychology. He obtained his master’s in counseling psychology and post-secondary teaching certificate from Bethel University and bachelor’s in psychology from Cornerstone University. Schimp is a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner.


Coaston, S. C. (2017). Self-care through self-compassion: a balm for burnout. The Professional Counselor, 7(3), 285-297. doi:10.15241/scc.7.3.285

Hobfoll, S. E., & Shirom, A. (2000). Stress and burnout in the workplace: Conservation of resources. Retrieved from

Jenaro, C., Flores, N., & Arias, B. (2007). Burnout and coping in human services practitioners. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38(1), 80-87. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.38.1.80

Kobasa, S. C. (1979). Stressful life events, personality, and health: An inquiry into hardiness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(1), 1-11. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.37.1.1

Leiter, M. P. & Maslach, C. (2005). Banishing burnout: Six strategies for improving your relationship with work. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Lim, N., Kim, E. K., Kim, H., Yang, E., & Lee, S. M. (2010). Individual and work- 169 related factors influencing burnout of mental health professionals: A metaanalysis. Journal of Employment Counseling, 47(2), 86-96 doi:10.1002/j.2161-1920.2010.tb00093.x

Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397-422. Retrieved from

Sadler-Gerhardt, C. J., & Stevenson, D. L. (2012). When it all hits the fan: Helping counselors build resilience and avoid burnout. Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2012,1, 1-8. Retrieved from

Schimp, J. B. (2015). Health behaviors, hardiness, and burnout in mental health workers (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

Skovholt, T. M. (2012). The counselor’s resilient self. Turkish Counseling and Guidance Journal, 4(38), 137-146. Retrieved from

Stamm, B. H. (2010). The concise ProQOL manual. (2nd ed.). Pocatello, ID: Retrieved from

Thompson, E. H., Frick, M. H., & Trice-Black, S. (2011). Counselor-in-training perceptions of supervisor practices related to self-care and burnout. The Professional Counselor, 1(3), 152-162. doi:10.15241/eht.1.3.152

van Breda, A. D. (2015). Building resilient human service organizations. Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership, and Governance, 40(1), 62-72. doi:10.1080/23303131.2015.1093571