Burnout amongst school counselors: a study in a Chinese city

  • Wencheng CHEN

Student thesis: EdD Thesis


There is national and international research evidence that school counselors are prone to suffering burnout. Limited official data shows a similar situation in Ningbo in recent years. This research aims at exploring school counselors’ burnout in Ningbo. Three questions are raised: what is the current situation of their burnout, what are the possible reasons for their burnout, and how does burnout develop among them? This research adopted a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches. The general pattern of counselors’ burnout and factors associated with it was surveyed using a questionnaire (127 responses), while the other two research questions were examined using semi-structured interviews with seven purposively sampled school counselors. The quantitative data identify that the Ningbo school counselors’ have on average a moderate burnout level, significantly influenced by variables such as gender, age, and consulting load. Results of the qualitative research identify that the counselors do not suffer from burnout for a single clear-cut reason, but a variable mix of reasons. Seven possible reasons contributing to their burnout were explored: case-load, perceived prejudice, subject marginalization, de-professionalization, marriage and income attitudes, counselors’ gender and personal characteristics. By including these additional factors, the research shows that the model of burnout causality can be expanded to a “culture-school-individual” framework. The analysis of burnout has been mainly informed by psychological perspectives. Besides, the work of a counsellor involves much psychological aspects as it does social contextual elements. The complexity and individual peculiarity of the development process of their burnout are revealed. The management and the final outcome of their burnout took various forms among the counselors; some even found burnout led to positive personal outcomes. The findings highlight the key challenges and opportunities in developing counseling services in schools in Ningbo and suggestions are given for counselors, principals and the local education bureau to promote the working motivation, effectiveness and well-being of school counselors. The limitations of the research are recognized and directions for future research are suggested.
Date of Award9 Jul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Univerisity of Nottingham
SupervisorJohn Lowe (Supervisor) & David Murphy (Supervisor)


  • school counselors
  • burnout

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