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.


41st Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2015

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #25
CE Offered: BACB
Behavior Analytic Approaches to Psychiatric Illness - Anxiety, Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder
Saturday, May 23, 2015
1:00 PM–2:50 PM
Texas Ballroom Salon B (Grand Hyatt)
Area: CBM/PRA; Domain: Theory
Chair: Shannon McDonald Shea (Work, Community, Independence)
Discussant: Michael F. Dorsey (Endicott College)
CE Instructor: Michael F. Dorsey, Ph.D.
Abstract: In spite of a clear need for intervention, few behavior analysts are comfortable providing treatment related to psychiatric disorders. It is estimated that 30-35% of individuals with developmental disabilities are dually diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder (The National Association for the Dually Diagnosed). Additionally, 19.1% of individuals in the United States are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. 6.7% have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and 1.6% with Borderline Personality Disorder (National Institute of Mental Health , 2012). We intend to teach participants how to assess and treat psychiatric illnesses from a behavior analytic perspective. We will offer presentations on Anxiety, Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder. Each of these presentations will propose a behavior analytic theory of how these disorders may have developed, treatment suggestions and contraindications found in typical ABA interventions. These topics will be discussed from a behavior analytic point of view and are intended to encourage participants to provide effective treatment to individuals with psychiatric diagnoses.
Keyword(s): anxiety, BPD, depression, dual diagnosis
Behavior Analytic Approaches to Anxiety and Depression
Abstract: As Behavior Analysts seek to extend their reach into other socially valid areas of treatment this presentation is designed to provide a foundation for conceptualizing behavior analytic treatments to psychiatric illness and mental health disorders. Focusing on two of the most prevalent mental health disorders; depression estimated to occur in 6.9% of typically functioning adults and anxiety, estimated to occur in 18.1% of adults (The National Institute of Mental Health). Diagnoses are translated into measurable terms and defined behaviorally. Steps for analysis of behaviors and choice of treatment are reviewed. Treatments are presented in a system to conceptualize how behavior change can be executed in a treatment setting and generalization can be promoted to other environments. Current most effective procedures utilized in the mental health field are reviewed and tailored for the behavior analyst. Working in unison with other treatment professionals is encouraged to promote the best outcome for individuals served.
Borderline Personality Disorder: A Behavior Analytic Approach
SHANNON MCDONALD SHEA (Work, Community, Independence)
Abstract: The function of challenging behaviors exhibited by individuals diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can be easily misinterpreted when conducting a traditional functional assessment, possibly leading to interventions that may be contraindicated. We will discuss how to identify individuals that may have challenging behaviors associated with BPD, events in their history indicating intervention contraindications, and suggested interventions to assist with skill deficits common to the disorder. An estimated 4-9% of individuals diagnosed with BPD complete suicide, and roughly up to 80% engage in suicide attempts (National Institute of Mental Health, 2014). Individuals with BPD have a higher rate of factors that may negatively impact quality of life. Compared with individuals who do not have BPD, risk factors include increases in psychotropic medication given at an earlier age, longer and more frequent psychiatric hospitalizations, standing psychotropic medications, and concurrent prescription of psychiatric medication (Zanarini MC, 2001). Many interventions designed based on results of a traditional functional assessment have the potential to worsen or maintain challenging behaviors associated with BPD. Effective interventions that may improve individuals’ quality of life, as well as decrease rates of suicide attempts and self injury would be of tremendous value.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh