The Unsung Heroes: An Analysis of Burnout in Social Work

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Rebecca Overmyer-Velázquez


Burnout in social work has been an issue for many years and most researchers attribute this to a list of individual circumstances, some of which include: a lack of social support, age, religious orientation, personality traits, etc. Recently, sociologists using Social Construction Theory as an explanation for burnout suggest that policies at the institutional level are to blame. These are two very important pieces to the puzzle but unfortunately, both sets of research excludes the other. My goal is to show that these two areas of analysis have valid arguments and are not mutually exclusive. Since there is relatively little research done on social constructionism and social work burnout, I begin by asking how burnout is institutionally constructed. This leads into the next question: how can both the individual and the institutional perspectives help us to understand why burnout persists? In my quest to answer these questions I conducted 6 in-depth interviews with social workers in the Department of Children and Family Services of Los Angeles County. Through these interviews, I suggest the complex interaction between these two valid perspectives as well as exposing their flaws and identifying where further research is needed.


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