Acta Psychopathologica Open Access

  • ISSN: 2469-6676
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A Body-Based Group Intervention for Teacher Stress and Burnout in High-Risk Schools

Sharon Johnson

Teachers in high-risk South African schools suffer from stress and burnout as a result of on-going violence and lack of student discipline. An evolutionary psychological approach to self-care was researched in a mixed-method pilot study of 63 teachers in schools in high-risk communities exposed to continuous traumatic stress on the Cape Flats, Western Cape. The before-after control research design comprised interventions based on tension and trauma release exercises (TRE) for primal brain response, transpersonal psychology for paleomammalian emotional brain functions, and transactional analysis for neomammalian cognitive brain insights. This paper considers qualitative findings of perceived benefits of TRE with a group of 17 male and female teachers, 45-50 years, for 15 hours over 10 weeks. These exercises were developed as an integrative neurophysiological approach that recognises the homeostatic and thus therapeutic value of this type of tremor in the human body under stress. Content coding analysis from workshop evaluation forms showed that the TRE intervention offered intra-individual tools, leading to self-understanding and body awareness. It was considered a self-help tool, effective for calm and relaxation. A bottom-up thematic analysis of focus group interviews post-intervention considered relationship with the self, with physical and emotional impacts, self-concept and thinking processes. It also considered relationships with others and the school. It was found that problem-focused somatic coping, with repetition of skills learned in TRE workshops, contributed to teachers developing a sense of self-control and optimism needed to cope better with stressors, thus promoting classroom competency and preventing burnout.