Constructions of Burnout, Identity and Self-care in Professionals Working toward the Psychosocial Care of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Italy

Reference: Marco Gemignani & Massimo Giliberto (2021) Constructions of burnout, identity, and self-care in professionals working toward the psychosocial care of refugees and asylum seekers in Italy, Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 34:1, 56-78. doi: 10.1080/10720537.2019.1700853

Abstract: Professionals who provide psychosocial services to refugees and asylum seekers in Italy are a population at high-risk of job stress and burnout. Located within competing demands from society, clients, changing work circumstances, and professional identities, they struggle to elaborate clear constructions of responsibility, power, and care. To gain a multilayered understanding of job experiences and stress, we ran two focus groups, which became moments of peer reflection and support for the participants. They discussed how their professional figure, allegiances to personal expectations, and professional demands were often at odds with each other, resulting in feelings of guilt, impotence, and mistrust in their jobs. The participants underscored the need to develop a sense of control at work and the challenge of dealing with evolving definitions of their profession and with scarce institutional support, resources, and recognition. The need for an (im)possible, shaky, and yet crucial balance between power and responsibility was further complicated by constructions of the Italian society as hostile or, at best, indifferent about their important social and human role.