Self-reported sources of clinical stress and support among doctoral trainees in professional psychology

Daniel C. Foley (1989)

This study contributes to and expands the existing knowledge of what relevant variables are in therapist stress and social support systems. The purpose of the study is twofold: (1) to assess the relative stressfulness of certain in-session events and professional experiences, and (2) to explore the relationship of stress experienced in-session to the psychotherapists' social support system. The study focuses on three research questions: (1) what is most stressful within the clinical hour to professional psychologist trainees? (2) To whom do they talk about these stressors? and (3) what forms of social support do they experience as most helpful in dealing with these stressors? A Stress Survey was completed by 63 professional psychologist trainees. Results include a rank ordering of thirty three stressor items which are listed from highest to lowest. Trainees rated a physical attack as the most stressful item and feel that a clinical supervisor who offers technical support would be most helpful in dealing with this stressor. The rank ordering of the stressors are supported by an additional Cognitive Appraisal Pilot Study. The concordance of high stressors between the two surveys lends credence to the universality of these stressors for trainees. The results of this study identifies top stressors for professional psychologist trainees and reinforces the importance of supervisory relationships as a forum for addressing clinical stress.