They studied 188 mostly male clergy to shed light on the psychological demands of the job and their impact on clergy. The study looked at levels of emotional labour, job satisfaction, psychological distress, social support, and training in counselling or interpersonal skills.
It found that clergy who spent a lot of time dealing with other people’s feelings – emotional labour – were more likely to be psychologically distressed.
The study found that even good social support from friends, families and colleagues failed to protect clergy from the negative impact of emotional labour, while there was evidence to suggest that clergy who had received some form of training in counselling skills were better able to cope with the emotional demands of their job.
Professor Gail Kinman said: “Members of the clergy may experience considerable strain because of the emotional nature of their job – their day-to-day role requires them to deal with many emotionally taxing situations, as well as to observe human suffering and support distressed parishioners.
“Although we found that the members of the clergy who participated in this study had high levels of job satisfaction and psychological wellbeing relative to other professions, our results suggest that training in counselling skills could help individuals better cope with the emotional demands of their work.
“The findings also suggest that the clergy would benefit from more social support to help them manage this aspect of their job.”
The study was presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference taking place in Brighton today.