Date of Conferral
Rural Christian counselors are a distinct group of individuals faced with unique personal and professional challenges. Researchers have indicated that rural counselors experience a higher burnout rate due to wide practice scope; client stigma against receiving help; and physical isolation, making supervision, consultation, and referral difficult. Studies also show that self-care is an effective defense against the symptoms of burnout. Self-care is defined as any legal activity that promotes wellness and brings physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual balance. The central research question of this hermeneutic phenomenology examined the attitudes, perceptions, and experiences of rural Christian counselors with regard to self-care. The conceptual framework was interpreted using social constructivism and hermeneutic phenomenological lenses and was based on self-care, Christian counseling, and action theories. A convenience sample of 9 participants contributed to semistructured interviews; these interviews were analyzed according to methods suggested by Flood, Rubin and Rubin, and Creswell, resulting in saturation and synthesis of the information. Findings indicated that participants understood the importance of and practiced individual styles of self-care, but did not consider current levels of self-care practice as adequate. Feelings of guilt and perceived superior strength in others inhibited self-care efforts. Social change implications include the continued education and encouragement of self-care among this group to help combat burnout, compassion fatigue, and premature retirement. Rural counselors and the small communities they serve could both benefit from increased awareness and practice of self-care activities.