The Work Experiences of Social Workers: Factors Impacting Compassion Satisfaction and Workplace Stress

Evan Senreich, Shulamith Lala Ashenberg Straussner, Jeffrey Steen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 2015, over 6,000 licensed social workers in 13 US states responded to an online survey regarding perceptions and feelings about their work, as well as numerous personal and practice issues. Specifically, this study examined participants’ levels of compassion satisfaction and workplace stress, and then determined through multivariate analyses what demographic factors, behavioral and physical health problems, practice issues, fields of practice, and workplace environment issues impacted these two variables. The findings indicate that participants demonstrated high levels of compassion satisfaction, with a wide range of workplace stress levels. Workplace environment issues had the greatest impact on both variables, with social workers’ mental health problems, physical health status, and certain demographic factors such as race also influencing them. Over 82% of respondents expressed agreement that they were glad that they chose social work as a profession. The results appear to demonstrate that despite being a potentially stressful occupation, licensed social workers tend to experience significant emotional satisfaction from their work. On the other hand, the results also highlight the need for further research to determine how to enhance support for social workers in the workplace in order to not only reduce workplace stress, but also to increase compassion satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-109
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Social Service Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019


  • Social workers
  • behavioral health problems
  • compassion satisfaction
  • race
  • work environment
  • workplace stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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