Psychological therapists' experiences of burnout: A qualitative systematic review and meta-synthesis

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Purpose: Psychological therapists are vulnerable to developing burnout due to the frequent exposure to emotive narratives of distress. Several quantitative systematic reviews have provided an overview of the risk and protective factors associated with therapist burnout. To date, however, no qualitative systematic reviews on therapist burnout have been carried out. This systematic review aimed to explore the experiences and impact of burnout in psychological therapists, and the strategies they use to adapt to it.

Design: Systematic searches of three electronic databases (CINHAL EBSCO, Medline EBSCO and PsycINFO EBSCO) were conducted following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA). Papers were screened at title and abstract and full-text review stages. The Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) qualitative checklist was used to evaluate the methodological quality of the included studies.

Results: Nine peer-reviewed papers met the eligibility criteria. The findings stressed the severe professional and personal impact that burnout can have on therapists. The quality of the study designs of the included papers was overall good. The main limitations included risk of recruitment and selection bias, transparency and credibility issues due to lack of reporting on data saturation and reflexivity, and reduced transferability due to the qualitative methodologies and small sample sizes used.

Conclusions: Further research is needed to expand on these findings and develop a greater understanding of the experiences and management of burnout in psychological therapists. Future studies could use mixed-method designs and larger sample sizes to increase transferability. Theoretical implications and clinical recommendations are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number200253
JournalMental Health and Prevention
Early online date19 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • burnout
  • Stress
  • Mental Health
  • psychological therapists
  • psychologists
  • Systematic Review
  • Burnout
  • Psychological therapists
  • Mental health
  • Systematic review
  • Psychologists

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