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.


15th Annual Autism Conference; Online; 2021

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #13
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Defining and Assessing the “Therapeutic Relationship” as a Means of Optimizing Staff Training Practices from a Behavior Analytic Perspective
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
10:40 AM–11:30 AM
Area: AUT; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Ian Melton (Endicott College; Journeys Behavior Learning Center)
CE Instructor: Angeliki Gena, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: ANGELIKI GENA (University of Athens, Greece)

The epidemic increase in the prevalence or the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the great demand for skilled therapists who can work effectively and efficiently with young children with ASD, using the principles and the technology of applied behavior analysis, raises the need for optimizing our staff training practices. This presentation aims to present some preliminary findings, and to raise a number of questions, about the therapeutic style of the therapist working with young children with ASD. The first findings in this line of research are interesting and thought provoking. Specifically, they help us to provide answers to the following questions: (a) Why is it important to study the therapeutic relationship between children with ASD and their therapists? (b) How do we define the therapeutic relationship from a behavior-analytic perspective and how does it relate with other aspects of the therapeutic intervention? (b) How do we evaluate the therapeutic relationship and how should we aim to improve it? This line of research developed from the need to optimize staff training practices and offers a preliminary analysis for the systematic study of a variable that is considered to be critical for the therapeutic outcome – that of the therapeutic relationship. There are clear indications, from the evaluation of these preliminary findings, that the concept of a therapeutic relationship can be empirically defined and assessed and can lend itself toward improving our staff training practices for therapists who work with young children with ASD within the epistemological framework of behavior analysis.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts; licensed psychologists; graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) assess the concept “Therapeutic Relationship” and its operational definition within the framework of behavior analysis; (2) describe how a therapists can establish a therapeutic relationship with a learner with ASD; (3) compare the critical variables that differentiate between a well-established therapeutic relationship between child and therapist and a not-so-well-established one; (4) assess the impact of establishing a good therapeutic relationship on child progress; (5) describe how the establishment of a therapeutic relationship improve staff-training practices.
ANGELIKI GENA (University of Athens, Greece)

Professor at the School of Philosophy, Department of Philosopsy-Pedagogy-Psychology at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece (EKPA). She received her BA in Psychology and Sociology, her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and her Ph.D. from the “Learning Processes” program of the Psychology Department of the City University of New York. She conducted her Doctoral Dissertation at the Princeton Child Development Institute, in Princeton, New Jersey. She worked in various institutes in the USA and became the director of the Alpine Learning Group, a prominent center for children with autism in Alpine, New Jersey. She also taught as an adjunct professor at the City University of New York. In Greece she started her teaching career at the University of Thessaly, was elected at the University of the Aegean, and since 1998 teaches at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. She is the director of the Laboratory of Special Education and Family Counselling. Her research is predominantly in behavior analysis and its applications for early intervention in children with autism spectrum disorder and their families. She was general secretary of the Association of Behavioral Research for 11 years, is an associate of the Institute of Behavioral Research and Therapy, and a founding member and current president of the Institute of Systemic Behavior Analysis. She has served as an elected member of the Senate of EKPA, since 2016 she is a member of the board of trustees of IKY--National Organization of Scholarships, Greece--has been appointed to national committees of the Greek Ministry of Education, and has served on the board of various non-for-profit organizations. She has received several scholarships and awards for distinguished research and clinical practices addressing children with autism and grands from the European Commission and various Greek Ministries and organizations. She has published numerous books, empirical and theoretical articles in peer-reviewed journals, as well as book chapters. The main focus of her current research is in systemic behavior analysis and its applications for children with ASD and their families.  




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