Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Psy.D. Doctor of Clinical Psychology

Academic Discipline

Clinical Psychology - Florida School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Christina D. Brown, Psy.D.

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Lane, Ph.D.


Burnout is a widely researched stress-related phenomenon associated with numerous adverse outcomes for employees and organizations. Unfortunately, burnout is not well understood and research to this point has been flawed due to a lack of consensus on the definition, dimensionality, and context of the construct. Prevalent conceptualizations of burnout have been criticized for being arbitrarily developed without solid theoretical foundation and for failing to clearly distinguish burnout from depression or other work-related conditions such as compassion fatigue, secondary traumatization, and vicarious traumatization. The current project first examines relevant literature to identify commonalities among prevalent burnout conceptualizations. Then relevant stress research is explored to identify possible neurophysiological explanations for the general presentation and progression of burnout. Finally, burnout and stress literature are integrated to create a definition and model of burnout that is non-arbitrary, theoretically driven, and that distinguishes burnout from depression and other work-related conditions. Findings of the project indicated that prevalent burnout conceptualizations share three elements: a resources-and-demands framework; domains related to the individual, interpersonal relationships, and external factors; and an underlying implication of a chronic stress process involved in the development, presentation, and progression of burnout. Exploration of stress research indicated that the neurophysiological process that occurs during adaptation to chronic stress, namely allostasis, accounts for the development, presentation, and progression of burnout, with depression being a potential outcome of the process. Clinical implications, limitations, and recommendations are discussed.

Keywords: burnout, chronic stress, allostasis, neurophysiology, appraisal, work, depression, compassion fatigue, secondary traumatization, vicarious traumatization

Full Model Final.png (99 kB)
Detailed version of proposed stress model. Green pathway represents effective adaptation. Red pathway represents burnout process.

Overview Model Final.png (40 kB)
Overview of proposed stress model. Green pathway represents effective adaptation. Red pathway represents burnout process.