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

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Symposium #32
CE Offered: BACB
Pragmatic Values in Education and Practice of Behavior Analysis
Saturday, May 23, 2015
1:00 PM–2:50 PM
007C (CC)
Area: TPC/EDC; Domain: Theory
Chair: Maria R. Ruiz (Rollins College)
Discussant: Maria R. Ruiz (Rollins College)
CE Instructor: Maria R. Ruiz, Ph.D.

Behavior analysis functions within a non-foundational theory of truth and embraces a pragmatic view of truth and values. This means that our focus on what works is a guiding principle in practice and in the development of our field as whole. Historically our scope of influence has been most visible in the field of autism, but at times our focus conflicts with dominant views. We examine the implications of this conflict for our practices. Similarly, behaviorally oriented psychotherapists are faced with treatment decisions with a view towards what works. Behavior analysis offers strategies for determining and evaluating interventions based on context-driven pragmatic values; we illustrate with substance abuse treatment. Our final two papers concentrate on illustrations from higher education and focus first on the historical dualism in healthcare that has devalued behavioral health and privileged physical disease. This appears to be changing and moving towards an integrated bio-behavioral model that will require behavior analytic training programs to adopt an intra-professional practice model befitting our pragmatic orientation. Finally we endorse Dewey's pragmatic liberal education and his insistence on cooperative work and review a developing program in behavior analysis and public health.

Keyword(s): autism Dewey, graduate training, pragmatism values
Pragmatic Values in Autism Education
CHATA A. DICKSON (New England Center for Children), Magda M. Stropnik (New England Center for Children)
Abstract: For over four decades United States federal law has required that children with disabilities be provided a free and appropriate public education. Since this time, legislators, school officials, and teachers have grappled with defining ‘appropriate,’ and in many cases great efforts have been made to bring children with autism and intellectual disabilities into contact with the general education curriculum. Although these efforts are rooted in the values of equal rights and democracy, for many children this approach has been suboptimal. We argue, from a pragmatic standpoint, that the most appropriate education is one that targets goals that are functionally appropriate for the individual, rather than structurally similar to the general education curriculum.
Pragmatic Values in Clinical Work
CHRISTEINE M. TERRY (Palo Alto VA Healthcare System)
Abstract: Psychotherapy is not values-free. Practitioners’ values can influence their clinical practice, from selecting the type of therapy to determining termination of services, and subsequently can impact clients’ outcomes and experiences of therapy. Values can be difficult to identify and their influence is often outside of the practitioner’s awareness. Behavior analysis and behaviorally based therapies, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), offer a set of values a practitioner can adopt, as well as useful tools for identifying values and value-directed actions. A unifying set of values across behavioral therapies is pragmatism or “doing what works” or “what works more effectively.” However, “what works” or “what works more effectively” must be guided by the context of the individual seeking clinical services. Without an understanding of the individual’s context, the provider risks the danger of being rigidly prescriptive and ultimately ineffective. Behavior analysis offers strategies for determining and evaluating interventions based on context-driven pragmatic values. Using the example of substance use treatment, the intersections of values, pragmatism, and behavior analysis will be examined with a focus on their influence on practitioners’ clinical decisions and interventions.

Pragmatic Values in Healthcares Paradigm Shift: Integrated Care and Intra-professional Training Models for Behavior AnalystsHealthcare in the United States has traditionally involved a dualistic syst

MICHELLE ENNIS SORETH (Rowan University), Mary Louise E. Kerwin (Rowan University)

Healthcare in the United States has traditionally involved a dualistic system that devalues behavioral health problems while privileging physical disease. The rise of chronic disease (i.e., heart disease, COPD, diabetes, etc.) and the failure of the healthcare system to adequately address behavioral health problems has resulted in an increasing recognition of the importance of behavior in health, so much so that the medical field has been said to be in the midst of a paradigm shift from a dualistic biomedical model to an integrated bio-behavioral model. This paradigm shift is well aligned with behavior analysis pragmatic values, and presents behavior analysts with an unparalleled opportunity for effective action within the medical system, a community from which we have largely been excluded. A key to successfully incorporating behavior analysis into an increasingly integrated model of care involves the development of behavior analytic training programs that adopt an intra-professional practice model. This presentation will examine this paradigm shift in the context of Deweys pragmatism and present a training model for the next generation of behavior analysts that retains these pragmatic values while fostering the inclusion of behavior analysis in the intra-professional integration of the healthcare system.

Behavior Analysis Liberal Studies and Public Health
MARIA R. RUIZ (Rollins College), David Richard (Rollins College)
Abstract: Increasing demands for professional behavior analysts in certain area such autism, has resulted in the rapid expansion of masters programs that deliver instruction in a variety of ways ranging from the traditional classroom to web-based instruction and mobile learning. While growth in our training programs is inevitable, even desirable, our field would be well advised to examine carefully our end goals in training professionals at the master’s level who seek terminal degrees. If our goals center around the education of clinicians whose work will concentrate in narrow areas of practice such as autism, then a selective focus on foundations and applications of behavior analysis to these areas is appropriate. But, if on the other hand, our goals include expanding our field of influence in behavioral health, then we must consider broadening our students’ exposure. I will present a model that adopts Dewey’s pragmatic view of a liberal education and his insistence on cooperative work, in this case, by teaming with graduate programs in public health and health services administration, and introducing clinical science electives as a way of expanding our field of influence and broadening our areas of practice and visibility.



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