Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #368
CE Offered: BACB — 
Compassion and Self-Compassion Among Supervising Behavior Analysts and Direct Care Staff
Sunday, May 24, 2020
5:00 PM–6:50 PM
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level 2, Room 206
Area: AUT/OBM; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Kate E. Fiske Massey (Rutgers University)
Discussant: Bridget A. Taylor (Alpine Learning Group)
CE Instructor: Kate E. Fiske Massey, Ph.D.

Recent research has highlighted the importance of compassion in ABA. A survey of parents of children with ASD indicated that parents often rated behavior analysts poorly on their demonstration of behaviors that indicate compassion and empathy for the family (Taylor et al., 2019). Further, LeBlanc and colleagues (2019) noted that the majority of surveyed behavior analysts had not received training on relationship-building skills during their graduate studies. As noted by these authors, compassion is required for behavior analysts working with families of individuals with autism and other related disabilities. Additionally, compassion is necessary when behavior analysts oversee direct care staff working with these same populations. Research indicates that staff members working in the field of ABA report high levels of burnout associated with variables that include the support they receive from supervisors (Gibson et al., 2009; Plantiveau et al., 2018). In the current symposium, we will first examine the qualities of exemplary behavior analysts, including those that center on compassion for others. We will then examine factors within ABA settings—such as supervision—that contribute to employee burnout, and consider steps behavior analysts can take in the workplace to promote compassion by altering supervisory practices and focusing on staff self-care.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): compassion, self-care, supervision
Target Audience:

The target audience is current board certified behavior analysts, including and especially those who are currently serving in supervisory roles.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) identify the qualities of an exemplary behavior analyst that are directly related to supervising others; (2) describe organizational factors, especially those related to supervision, that can contribute to staff burnout; (3) describe compassionate approaches that can be taken by behavior analysts in interactions with supervisees to reduce burnout.
The Composition of Exemplary Practitioners: Perspectives of Behavior Analysts
JESSICA E. FRIEDER (Western Michigan University), Ryan M. Zayac (University of North Alabama), Thom Ratkos (Berry College), Madison Williams (University of North Alabama), Ashton Geiger (University of North Alabama), Amber Paulk (University of North Alabama)
Abstract: What characteristics and behaviors makeup an exceptional behavior analyst? We should be well prepared to answer this question with our field’s emphasis on objective definition, description, quantification, and experimentation. However, many of us may struggle to identify distinguishing differences between exemplary and average behavior analysts. The current multiphase study, asked BCBAs and BCBA-Ds to identify their top five qualities and attendant behaviors of individuals they considered exemplary behavior analysts. Two hundred seventy-four participants completed the survey which yielded 180 different identified qualities. Similar qualities (e.g., compassionate, thoughtful, caring) were consolidated into one category (“Empathetic”), and the authors narrowed the list to 35 qualities and corresponding behaviors, which we named the Exemplary Behavior Analyst Checklist (EBAC). An initial 392 BCBAs and BCBA-Ds rated the extent to which exemplary behavior analysts displayed each quality and corresponding behaviors from the previously developed list, using a 1 (never exhibits this quality) to 5 (always exhibits this quality) Likert-type scale. Participants also ranked their top 10 qualities in order of importance. A discussion of the EBAC and participants’ ratings will be presented, including implications related to training, study limitations, and future research.

Burnout in Providers Serving Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Multi-Method Examination of Organizational Causes

SUMMER BOTTINI (Binghamton University; Marcus Autism Center ), Colin S. Muething (Marcus Autism Center), Kaylie Wiseman (Binghamton University), Jennifer M. Gillis (Binghamton University)

Providers serving individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are at high risk of experiencing burnout. Burnout is of serious concern as it negatively impacts one’s physical/psychological health and quality of services. Research has focused on individual predictors of burnout; however, understanding organizational causes may elucidate targets for prevention. Study 1 surveyed 149 individuals providing direct-care services to individuals with ASD to examine the relation between areas of work-life and burnout using standardized measures. We found a high percentage of providers experience burnout. Workload, reward, fairness, and values emerged as the best work-life predictors of burnout but predicted little variance in burnout, suggesting existing measures do not sufficiently capture organizational aspects that contribute to burnout. To better understand the unique experiences of this population, we recruited 11 providers to interview regarding experiences of burnout and organizational factors that affect burnout. Qualitative analysis revealed nine core themes. Workload, coordinating providers, supervision, and colleagues were frequently reported to contribute to burnout; whereas, social support from colleagues and supervision were frequently reported to mitigate burnout. Findings suggest areas for prevention within organizations servings individuals with ASD and avenues for better measuring relevant work-life factors.


Evaluating the Effects of Behavioral Skills Training With Behavior Analysts to Increase Essential Supervisory Skills

ALLISON HAWKINS (Rutgers University), Kate E. Fiske Massey (Rutgers University)

Many individuals with autism spectrum disorders are enrolled in specialized private schools due to challenging behavior or specific learning difficulties. Job responsibilities in these settings can be stressful for staff employed in direct-care positions. Previous research suggests that high-quality supervisor relationships can moderate staff stress and burnout for direct-care staff in specialized applied behavior analysis schools (Gibson et al., 2009). Literature suggests that improving Board Certified Behavior Analysts’ (BCBA) use of corrective feedback, empathetic statements, and reinforcement could contribute to improved supervisory relationships. To date, no research has presented the use of behavioral skills training (BST) to teach BCBAs supervisory skills, and the current study sought to fill this gap in the research. Two BCBAs were taught two essential supervisory skills: corrective feedback and empathetic statements. Both participants mastered each skill following BST. A third skill, reinforcement, met mastery criteria for both participants before BST was implemented. Staff ratings of perceived supervisor support did not support the hypothesis that ratings would improve following BCBA mastery of target skills. Staff ratings were initially high during baseline and remained stable following BCBA training. The results of the present study suggest that behavioral skills training is an effective tool for teaching supervisory skills to BCBAs.


CANCELED: Effects of Short-Term Self-Care Training on the Well-Being of Staff in an Applied Behavior Analytic Setting

KATE E. FISKE MASSEY (Rutgers University), Margaret Swarbrick (Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care), Susan Gould-Fogerite (Rutgers New Jersey Medical School), Catriona Beauchamp Francis (Rutgers University), Debra Paone (Rutgers University)

In past research, professionals working in ABA report high levels of burnout affected by factors such as supervisory and social support (Plantiveau et al., 2018) and employee exposure to aggressions (Hastings et al., 2000). Taylor and colleagues (2018) called for a focus on self-care for ABA professionals. We examined the effects of a short-term self-care program on 14 ABA staff members working with adolescents with ASD and severe challenging behavior. Three 1-hour trainings focused on teaching self-care skills such as focused breathing techniques and tips for healthy eating and sleep hygiene. Staff members practiced skills in session. All staff members completed the Professional Quality of Life: Compassion Satisfaction and Fatigue Version 5 (ProQOL), a 30-item measure of burnout, compassion fatigue, and traumatic stress, before and after the program. Contrary to expectations, staff reported low levels of burnout prior to trainings, and reductions in burnout and related measures were not observed following training. However, 100% of staff reported that the program was relevant to their needs and that they planned to use the skills they had learned in the future. While these findings are preliminary, the importance and evaluation of future self-care programs with this population will be discussed.




Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh