Psychologist Impairment: What Is It, How Can It Be Prevented, and What Can Be Done to Address It?


Address correspondence to Penni L. Smith, PhD, University of Mississippi Medical Center, 2500 North State Street, Jackson, MS 39216. E-mail:


Research indicates that psychologists self-report a variety of problems related to their personal and professional functioning, such as depression, substance abuse, and burnout. These difficulties not only lead to psychologist distress, but can also result in impairment and have a negative effect on patient care. This review of the psychologist impairment literature provides information on the historical movement toward colleague assistance, rates of impairment, identifying distress and impairment, intervening with an impaired colleague, barriers to treatment, and preventing impairment. It is suggested that, through education of psychologists and graduate trainees, impairment may be prevented or its effects minimized.