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held a positive attitude about retirement, while those expecting retire-
ment to be a negative adjustment held negative attitudes.
A Case Study of an Older Worker Considering Retirement
Because of Burnout
Jason Stewart is a 63-year-old professor of counseling at a lower-level
public university in the Midwest. He has been feeling burned out and
unhappy about his job, believing that the students he trains are inferior
and that most students have lost their idealism and only want to be pri-
vate practitioners and make a great deal of money. He chose counseling
as a career to help others and to make the world a better place—ideas
that seem old fashioned in the current climate of cynicism and narcissism
which he finds among the students he teaches. His feelings of burnout
and unhappiness have been gaining in strength since Jason was passed
over for the chairmanship of his department 5 years ago. He is now won-
dering if he should quit work completely or seek another job, and has
come for retirement counseling to help him decide on a course of action.
Jason has no hobbies other than reading mysteries, watching films, and
writing articles and books. He wants the counselor to use a brief
problem-solving approach that focuses on the present, doesn't assume
that a problem has its origins in the past, and uses logical solutions.
The initial sessions went very well. Jason was highly motivated, did a
great deal of reading about early retirement and older adult burnout, and
found that it wasn't unusual for people in his field to feel burned out and
unhappy with their jobs after many years of tough, loyal, and successful
work without very much financial or emotional payoff. As Jason read,
talked to the counselor, and made behavioral charts, he began to com-
plain about feeling depressed. “I still don't know what to do,” he said,
and wondered if the counselor had any suggestions. He did. Why not
enter the job market and see if he could find a job where his skills could
be put to better use and where the students were stronger?
Jason did just that and much to his surprise he was a finalist for several
very high-level positions in highly ranked universities. He spoke to the
counselor about the experience. “I wanted something better, but now
I'm scared. I don't think I want to work that hard, and I'm worried that
having been in a mediocre university makes me unprepared to deal with
high-level faculty and students. The thought of moving makes me feel
old and tired.”
The counselor listened to Jason for several sessions as he discussed his
confusion and concerns about his job possibilities. She told him that it
seemed as if the pull to stay was stronger than the pull to leave. Was there
a way he could stay at his university and perhaps change what he was
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