Does Personal Distress Mediate the Effect of Mindfulness on Professional Quality of Life?

Jacky T. Thomas


Personal distress is an aspect of the empathy construct which has been negatively associated with a range of psychological and behavioral problems. However, it is unclear whether mindfulness serves to buffer these negative relationships. This study examines direct effects and mediation effects of personal distress and mindfulness among three measures of professional quality of life: compassion fatigue, burnout, and compassion satisfaction. This model was tested using a sample of clinical social workers (n = 171). Results indicated that higher personal distress is significantly associated with higher compassion fatigue and burnout and lower compassion satisfaction, while mindfulness is significantly associated with lower compassion fatigue and burnout and higher compassion satisfaction. Mediation analyses showed significant indirect effects on all three measures of professional quality of life, with effect sizes in the small to moderate range. The indirect effects of mindfulness via the personal distress path accounted for 14-22% of the total effect of mindfulness on the three measures of professional quality of life. Implications for the education and training of social workers are discussed.


Personal distress, mindfulness, empathy, compassion fatigue, burnout

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Copyright (c) 2012 Jacky T. Thomas


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