Burnout as Alienation in the Counselling Field: The Descent from Homo-Faber to Homo-Economous
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The concepts burnout and alienation are routinely connected in a linear unproblematic trajectory (Tomei et al., 2011) perpetuating more of an ideological conflation than providing any insight into either concept. This is not due to the selection of shoddy analytic categories but to structural determinants of thinking, more systemically interesting than the entities themselves. The author attempts to problematize, politicise and polemicize the insipid commonsense understandings of these classifications endemic in the counselling/addictions field. An informal discourse analysis was conducted on an aggregate example based on observation over several years in teaching professional practice. He concludes that the reported trajectory from alienation to burnout is more a narrative around changing ideology diffusion than a robust appraisal of social science. Furthermore, the concept of burnout serves to perpetuate, worsen and naturalise the problems it claims to remedy by a facilitation of spiritualising acts of passivity. An appreciation of alienation on the other hand enables awareness of the unnaturalness of current neo-liberal social structures. The author concludes that the quazi-religious mantra of burnout invites the reader into a regime of self-care/self-blame contradictions and proves its effectiveness not by applicability but repetition. By continued use of the concept we reify the myth of burnout and grant it credence. The author also describes how clinicians enact their own informal and invisible means of resistance to power in the workplace where solidarity is enacted through humour and humanity.