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Burnout and Work Engagement: Occupational Well-being of Service Providers for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder


Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) are one of the largest certified occupational groups providing intervention services to individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). RBTs are classified as human service professionals, who are workers responding to the needs of people. As human service professionals, RBTs face significant occupational stressors that can be emotionally challenging and reduce occupational well-being (Maslach & Jackson, 1981). Occupational well-being is defined as a positive evaluation of various aspects of one’s job (Horn, Taris, Schaufeli, & Schreurs, 2004). It is a key construct in organizational psychology because it is related to various individual and organizational outcomes such as health and job performance (e.g., Harter, Schmidt, & Keyes, 2003). This study is the first to apply the job demands-resources (JD-R) model of occupational well-being to identify job characteristics and organizational outcomes related to optimal well-being in RBTs working with individuals with ASD. The first aim of the study was to explore the relationship between job demands, resources, and occupational well-being (i.e., burnout and work engagement) of RBTs. The second aim of the study was to explore the relationship between occupational well-being and organizational outcomes (i.e., turnover intention, organizational commitment, and in-role job performance). The participants were 311 RBTs with complete responses to the study survey. Approximately 45% of RBTs reported high emotional exhaustion. Job demands (e.g., challenging behaviors) and resources (e.g., training) were significantly related to burnout, while resources (e.g., social resources) were significantly related to work engagement. Both burnout (i.e., emotional exhaustion) and work engagement were significantly related to several organizational outcomes (e.g., turnover intention). Based on the study results, the field may begin to provide better support for RBTs to reduce burnout and improve work engagement. Clinical implications are discussed.

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