Dr. Gnilka looks at stress and coping among counselors

Spotlight on SOE faculty research

Dr. Philip Gnilka, assistant professor, Department of Counseling and Special Education
Dr. Philip Gnilka

The amount of knowledge being generated by VCU School of Education faculty in published research goes beyond merely enhancing the school’s reputation – it is helping to shape the future of education itself. One recent example of this is the study below, co-authored by Dr. Philip Gnilka, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Special Education, which looks at stress, burnout and coping among school counselors.


Dr. Philip Gnilka, with colleagues Heather Fye from Winona State University and Sarah McLaulin from Georgia State University, wanted to take a closer look at stress, burnout and coping among school counselors. Very often, counselors in today's k-12 environments are asked to do multiple jobs in addition to providing counseling services, "such as lunch and bus duty, testing coordinator, and substitute teaching" (p. 349). Although extra demands in addition to their regular school counseling duties may lead to stress and burnout, individuals vary in the extent to which they successfully cope. Fye, Gnilka and McLaulin considered perfectionism as a personality characteristic associated with school counselors' coping. Specifically, adaptive perfectionists, people with high standards for performance but who do not get overly self-critical when those high standards are not met, were expected to have the lowest levels of stress and burnout. Maladaptive perfectionists, those with high standards and high levels of self-criticism when those standards are not met, were expected to have more stress and burnout. Lastly, non-perfectionists were expected to have more stress and burnout than adaptive perfectionists. The study, made up of nearly 300 school counselors, revealed that adaptive perfectionists were the least likely to show signs of stress and burnout, and the most likely to display positive coping behaviors. Thus, perfectionism can potentially be protective. It is helpful to have goals and to work hard to achieve them. What is damaging to one's well-being is the self-criticism that may accompany some forms of perfectionism.

Link to full article: https://doi.org/10.1002/jcad.12218


Fye, H.J., Gnilka, P.B., & McLaulin, S.E. (2018). Perfectionism and School Counselors: Differences in Stress, Coping, and Burnout. Journal of Counseling & Development. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcad.12218