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A comparison of the stresses generated for mental health practitioners working with mandated and voluntary clients in agency settings and in private practice

1 July 1987


It was hypothesized that therapy and counseling with mandated clients, who were believed to demonstrate antisocial tendencies and behaviors, was more stressful than work with nonmandated or voluntary clients. It was further hypothesized that therapy and counseling with mandated clients in agency settings was more stressful to the clinician than work with mandated clients in private practice. Results were based on stress scores elicited by the Steenson Mental Health Practitioner Stress Scale and the Steenson Stressful Client Behaviors Scale. Work with mandated clients was more stressful than work with voluntary clients, but the sources of stress were suggested to lie in work setting rather than in client behaviors. A skewed sample precluded testing the difference in stress scores of private practitioners working with ,mandated clients against agency practitioners working with mandated clients, but practice in agency settings was established to be more stressful than private practice. competencies practiced by more highly stressed practitioners included couple counseling, family counseling and work with incest and sex abuse. Excessive workload and paperwork as well as emotional depletion were most highly endorsed items on the Practitioner Stress Scale. Threats of violence and suicidal gestures and statements were the most highly endorsed items on the Stressful Client Behaviors Scale. Concern and caring by mental health practitioners for their clients was clearly delineated.


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