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Inside Insight, Opportunities for Meaning, Empathy and the Obstacles of Stress: An Exploratory Study and Pilot Training Among Juvenile Justice Officers.


Prior research indicates that human service care providers experience especially high levels of chronic workplace stress and burnout compared to workers in other professions. Chronic workplace stress is linked to a variety of poor physical and mental health outcomes. There has been significantly more research to assess and support human service care providers in education, social welfare, and health care than providers working in law enforcement such as the population considered in this case study: juvenile justice officers, JJOs. In particular, there has been little prior research on juvenile justice officers (JJOs), who have the difficult job of working closely with incarcerated youth populations.

The intended contributions of this study are: (1) developing a descriptive baseline understanding of stress among an important and understudied population of human service care providers, (2) exploring human service care provider workplace stress through a new lens of empathy and meaning and (3) piloting a training to reduce stress with a focus on facilitating empathy and meaning. This research is carried out over three phases.

The promising insights from the case study and pilot analysis include strategies to support JJOs finding meaning in their workplace. These strategies are achieved through creating opportunities for building relationships and empathy with youth and coworkers, improving the system for communication and positive feedback with management and teaching emotion regulation, mindfulness and empathic communication to improve individual coping skills.

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