Two studies investigating burnout in Irish Psychologists (N=174) and female trauma therapists (N=35) support the idea that emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation are merely the consequence of using immature defence styles, as measured by Bond's Defence Style Questionnaire. In particular, minor image distorting defences are related to both the tendency to become emotionally exhausted and to develop a detached and cynical view of the client. These findings suggest that the unconscious deployment of defences in order to maintain self-esteem and to lower anxiety may be a key factor in the development of and maintenance of burnout in caring professions such as psychology and therapists. With this in mind, supervisors of carers need to focus on the possibility of distortion as a self protective but inevitably self-destructive work behaviour in psychologists and therapists. This relationship between defences and burnout needs to be further replicated and examined across other occupational groups.