Work Life, Well-Being, and Self-Care Across the Professional Lifespan of Psychologists

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Abstract

Professional lives and experiences of psychologists change over the course of their careers. Taking a developmental perspective, the present research used archival data from 2 previously conducted surveys to compare early career, midcareer, and late-career psychologists with 3 questions in mind: (a) Do personal and professional well-being differ across these career stages? (b) Do work-related demands and resources vary across these career stages? and (c) Does use of self-care strategies differ across career stages? Findings indicate that professional well-being varies over the psychologist’s life span, with a general trend toward greater well-being as one’s career progresses. Furthermore, results indicate that early career psychologists report greater work-related demands in the context of fewer professional resources, including more time on administrative paperwork, greater experience of negative client behaviors, and fewer opportunities for professional development. Finally, data offer some evidence that late-career psychologists may engage in more self-care. Although this finding was not consistent across samples, it is consistent with the burnout literature proposing that with age and experience, professionals develop more effective ways of managing professional demands and stress. Overall, the pattern of results suggests that greater professional well-being may be experienced at the later career stages and that increased efforts are needed to bolster professional and personal resources for psychologists who are in the early career stage.

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