Recasting burnout as a crucial phase of service, Building Resilience Through Contemplative Practice uses real-world case studies to teach professionals and volunteers unique skills for cultivating resilience.

Viewing service and burnout as interdependent throughout phases of stability, collapse, reorganization, and exploitation, the book uniquely combines elements of adaptive resilience theory with contemplative practices and pedagogies. Drawing on the author’s extensive experience working at the intersection of service and contemplative practices, this is the first book to demonstrate how and why professionals and volunteers can reframe burnout as an opportunity for resilience-building service. User-friendly case studies provide tools, skills, and exercises for reconstructive next steps. Chapters address personal, group, and structural levels of service and burnout.

Illuminating the link between adaptive resilience and burnout as a normal and useful phase of service, Building Resilience Through Contemplative Practice is a necessary resource for professionals and volunteers across a wide range of service settings.


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About Bobbi Patterson

Bobbi Patterson, PhD, M.Div, is Professor of Pedagogy in the Department of Religion and the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University. A well-known speaker and presenter on burnout and resilience, she has helped create, direct, and reorganize a range of community-partnered service experiences and programs for over fifty years.

Service burnout is no stranger to Bobbi, whether in the form of emergency fixes to keep communication going or suddenly-called meetings to strategize about service delivery failures. Years of failed attempts to wrestle service back to some previous stability invited a new strategy: cultivate more resilience – personally, in the setting, and with the community.

Resilience mediates forces released in breakdown and collapse by fostering adjustments and system changes. With capacities to tolerate stress while holding a service system together, resilience facilitates learning and adaptation providing insights for next steps as service and those engaged in it fall apart. Because resilience invites us into burnout rather than around it or away from it, we meet our limits, lacking resources, and dead ends. We can choose to get to know them better and in those breakdown-driven discoveries expand our capacities for transition and change within ourselves, settings, and communities.

Translated for use in service settings, these insights, tools, and skills, help us welcome service change as adjustment for healthier living – whether by altering aspects of service or sometimes ending it. Exercises range from walking to sitting meditation, journaling, team-based practice of Lectio Divina and more. Providing space to let the feelings and thoughts arise without taking over, these tools help us recognize resistance, confusion, and breakdown as difficult yet useful opportunities for learning instead of panicking or resisting. Contemplative values that view diversity as a treasure, non-judging and empathy as resources, and change as part of compassionate living come alive in service and volunteer people and settings.

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Related Articles and Chapters


“Self-Criticism and Depressive Symptoms: Mediating Role of Self-Compassion”, Zhang, H., et. al., Patterson, B. OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying. Vol. 80(2), 202 – 223. DOI: 10.1177/0030222817729609.

“Psychometric Properties of the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS) in an African American Clinical Sample”, Huaiyu Zhang, Lu Dong, et. al., Bobbi Patterson in Mindfulness 10:1395-1405.


“Pathway for Place-based Pedagogies: A Pliable Taxonomy of Design and Assessment” in Grounding Education in Environmental Humanities: Exploring Place-based Pedagogies in the South. Lucas Johnson and David Aftandilian (eds). London, UK: Routledge. 2018

“Shame and Depressive Symptoms: Self-compassion and Contingent Self-worth as Mediators”, Zhang, H, et. al, Bobbi Patterson. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings. DOI 10.1007/s10880-018-9548-9


“Compassion-Based Meditation Among African Americans: Self-Criticism Mediates Changes in Depression”, Johnson,, Bobbi Patterson. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior. DOI 10.1111/sltb.12347.

“Self-Criticism and Depressive Symptoms: Mediating Role of Self-Compassion”, Zhang, H., et. al., Patterson, B. OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying. DOI: 10.1177/0030222817729609.


“Transformative Learning: A Case for Using Grounded Theory as an Assessment Analytic” in “Teaching Theology and Religion”, October 2015.

“Learning our Way Into the Future: The AAR Sustainability Task Force and Climate Change” with Robert Puckett; Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol.83, No. 2, June 2015

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