A BURNOUT STORY

A recently-graduated and highly regarded young social worker had just been hired by a regional mental health center in a rural area of a large state. He was very excited for the opportunity to put all of his hard work and preparation to work helping people in need, his professional passion. Upon arrival at the agency, however, he (let's call him Bill) learned during the first conversation with his supervisor that he would not be assuming any therapist duties in the Walk-In Clinic until he had mastered all the professional staff's procedural manuals and state and county guidelines. He was disappointed, but dutifully headed back to his office with the large pile of reading material.

Bill dived into the homework, eager to get to the real work he had been hired for. At the end of each day his supervisor had scheduled a few minutes for them to check in about his progress, and each day Bill left disappointed when the supervisor sent him back for another day of preparation. This went on for a full week, but at the Friday meeting the supervisor led with, "Bill, I know you have been frustrated all week, but all of us here have to take all the procedural guidelines very seriously. You have done well with this, and I'm ready to put you on the regular rotation for Walk-In Clinic starting next Monday morning."

Bill was understandably elated, and he was at his office early on Monday ready to assume his important responsibilities as therapist. So when the receptionist brought him the file folder shortly before 9:00 for the initial client who was seated in the reception area, and Bill sat down to do a quick read-through before going out to greet the client, he gulped, attempting to push down his initial rush of anxiety. The summary sheet indicated that the client had been court-referred for sexually molesting chickens. Instead of heading out to the reception area, Bill rushed to his supervisor's office and, in so many words, said, "They didn't teach me about chicken guys in grad school." The supervisor said, "I'll be here to back you up, but welcome to Walk-In Clinic, Bill."

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