Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Boaz Levy

Second Advisor

Steven Vannoy

Third Advisor

Heidi Levitt


Although there is an abundance of literature on clinician burnout within the mental health field, there is a gap in research about student burnout, especially for the student population undergoing clinical training. The aim of this research was to fill the gap in literature on burnout and explore factors that might contribute to or buffer burnout among student clinicians. This research particularly focused on the differences in burnout rates between students' academic life and their clinical practice. Using the theory of conservation of resources, it was hypothesized that social support would serve as a buffer for burnout of student clinicians. Additionally, this research studied the relationship between burnout level and demographic characteristics such as age, gender, marital status, race/ethnicity of student clinicians. Furthermore, the relationship between burnout and level of perceived competency was explored. Finally, the impact of combination of responsibilities on both academic and clinical burnout was studied.

The analyses yielded several significant findings regarding clinical and academic burnout. Firstly, students experienced academic burnout, which was demonstrated by high levels of cynicism and exhaustion and moderate levels of personal efficacy. Students’ clinical burnout was demonstrated by moderate levels of emotional exhaustion and personal accomplishment and by low level of depersonalization. These results indicate that burnout of student clinicians is real and deserves attention.

When comparing clinical burnout of our sample with published data, our participants experienced higher levels of emotional exhaustion and personal accomplishment and lower levels of depersonalization than norms of mental health providers (Maslach, Jackson, & Leiter, 1996). Clinical and academic burnout had a significantly different distribution of scores for all subscales, suggesting that student clinicians experience significantly different levels of burnout in their academic and clinical lives. Levels of academic burnout were higher compared with clinical burnout.

Demographic characteristics were not correlated with level of burnout in this study. Neither clinical nor academic burnout were significantly correlated with the degree of autonomy, nor with the level of functioning of clients. Feelings of competency were not related to clinical or academic burnout, with the exception of clinical personal accomplishment. Both clinical and academic burnout were affected by students’ combined responsibilities across most subscales.

The participants’ ratings of social support were significantly negatively associated with feelings of academic and clinical burnout, as indicated by the Emotional Exhaustion, Depersonalization, and Cynicism subscales. Ratings of social support were significantly positively related to self-reported measures of Personal Accomplishment and Personal Efficacy. The only burnout subscale not significantly associated with social support was Academic Exhaustion. Taken together, these findings suggest that social support may provide a buffer for burnout experienced by student clinicians.