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.


49th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2023

Event Details

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Symposium #69
Not-So-Private Events: Behavioral Conceptualizations of Thoughts, Feelings, and Their Interactions With Other Actions
Saturday, May 27, 2023
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom H
Area: PCH/CBM; Domain: Theory
Chair: Brad Michael Parfait (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
Discussant: Troy DuFrene (San Francisco Center for Compassion-Focused Therapies)

Behavior analysis has long grappled with how to characterize thoughts, feelings, and other behaviors that pose a challenge to objective observation (see Sandoz, Boullion, & Rachal, 2020). Termed “covert,” “private,” or “subtle” in different behavior analytic traditions, contemporary behavior analysis has, for the most part, oriented to thoughts and feelings as significant aspects of the behavioral stream, subject to behavioral (i.e., non-mentalistic) conceptualization and analysis. The present symposium will explore several behavior analytic conceptual analyses of a sample of these phenomena that may be particularly socially and clinically significant. The first contribution will include a behavior analytic conceptualization emotion regulation (and dysregulation) extended to direct implications for the clinician-scientist. The second contribution within this symposium will re-conceptualize distress tolerance as an actionable, observable target for clinical behavior analysts. The third contribution is a conceptual analysis of irrational fear that may be present for clinicians when attempting to form an effective therapeutic relationship with a client from a heavily stigmatized population. The final contribution within this symposium will examine the functional relationship between music and the subtle behavior it evokes.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): Behaviorism, Conceptual, Emotions, Thoughts

Up, Down, and With Intention: Conceptual Analysis of Emotion Regulation as a Functional Response Class for the Applied Clinician

CALEB MICHAEL JEAN (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Thomas B. Sease (Texas Christian University), Janani Vaidya (National Louis University), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana Lafayette), Nicole Pyke (The University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

Emotion dysregulation is associated with a number of psychological struggles such as anxiety, aggression, and eating disorders (see Mclaughlin et al., 2011) and conceptualized as a critical component in models of how such struggles are developed and maintained (Hofmann et al., 2012). In this way, the process of responding effectively and meaningfully in emotionally evocative contexts seems to be of critical importance to well-being. However, traditional conceptualizations of emotion regulation and dysregulation have predominantly relied on mid-level, mentalistic models emphasizing innate cognitive abilities or personological characteristics as the source of this important behavioral process (e.g., D’Agostino et al., 2017; Thompson 2019). Such mentalistic conceptualizations offer little, however, in terms of making emotion (dys)regulation directly actionable as an observable act-in-context. The present paper will propose a behavior-analytic conceptualization of emotion dysregulation as a response class of respondent and operant behaviors occurring at varying levels of analysis (e.g., physiological, psychological, behavioral) in emotionally evocative contexts. Then, building upon our conceptual analysis, we will offer examples of how the analysis can facilitate increased sensitivity and effectiveness to the clinician-scientist.

Re-Conceptualizing Distress Tolerance for Direct Functional Assessment and Intervention
NICOLE PYKE (The University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Thomas B. Sease (Texas Christian University), Janani Vaidya (National Louis University), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana Lafayette), Josh Delacerda (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Jon-Patric Veal (University of Louisiana-Lafayette)
Abstract: Distress Tolerance (DT) is a middle-level term, used frequently in Clinical Psychology to describe the ability to withstand unmanageable or unacceptable emotions (Zvolensky et al., 2010). Deficits in DT are thought to play an important role in the development and maintenance of the kinds of behavioral patterns diagnosed as psychopathology. This middle-level conceptualization, however, collapses a number of respondent and operant behaviors, and the relations among them, into one target. This leaves behavior analytic clinicians with little to orient them in the direct functional assessment of and FA-informed interventions on client struggles that involve deficits in DT. The present paper aims to re-conceptualize DT from a behavioral perspective in terms of a complex functional class of responses available to a person in contexts that elicit psychological distress. Common behavior therapies (e.g Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) that purport to target DT will be explored through the lens of this re-conceptualization along with recommendations for clinical behavior analytic intervention on DT beyond treatment packages.
Treating Patients and Our Irrational Fears of Them
JON-PATRIC VEAL (University of Louisiana-Lafayette), Josh Delacerda (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Nicole Pyke (The University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Thomas B. Sease (Texas Christian University), Janani Vaidya (National Louis University), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana Lafayette), Caleb Michael Jean (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
Abstract: Behavior analytic practitioners aim to serve clients with a variety of learning histories, some of which stand in significant contrast to our own. Effective, evidence-based care of such diverse clientele involves not only the implementation of practices with empirical support, but also practitioner awareness and examination of biases that can impact care (FitzGerald & Hurst, 2017). In other words, clinician learning histories may cause clients to function in ways that limit the clinician repertoire, ultimately causing harm and even impeding access to equitable care for the client (Bailey, et al., 2019; Walker & Spengler, 1995). Among the problematic functions that clinicians may find themselves contending with is fear, which has been associated with ineffective or harmful clinical judgments (Moskowitz et. al, 2012; Tuominen et. al, 2019). This paper will explore clinician fear as a potential respondent function of the clinical context, along with the limitations to the operant responses involved in appropriate functional analysis and intervention. We will argue for the need for assessment of clinician fear and related correlates of aversive control that may emerge in the clinical context. Finally, this paper will propose ways to build appetitive learning repertoires in the context of cultural diversity and to increase treatment effectiveness.
The Beat Goes On: Exploring Music as a Therapeutic Context in Behavior Analysis
JOSH DELACERDA (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Nicole Pyke (The University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Thomas B. Sease (Texas Christian University), Janani Vaidya (National Louis University), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana Lafayette), Caleb Michael Jean (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Jon-Patric Veal (University of Louisiana-Lafayette)
Abstract: A recent conceptualization of music-related behavior explored its selection and retention across human cultures from a functional contextual perspective (Rehfeldt, Tyndall, & Belisle, 2021). This conceptualization of music-related behavior as a system of cultural inheritance relies, in part, on the eliciting functions of music - that is, on the range of emotions that music as context readily evokes (Gabrielsson & Lindström, 2001). Described as emotional contagion (Justin & Vasterjfall, 2008), these eliciting functions are not only of substantive cultural significance, but may be of clinical significance. This paper will first explore a behavioral account of music as an eliciting context along with a review of its use in clinical contexts in and outside of behavior analysis. Then, we will provide a conceptual analysis of music’s potential for serving establishing/motivating, discriminative, and consequential functions for use in behavior analytic interventions in educational, clinical, and other settings. Practical implications for the behavior analytic clinician with or without a music background will be discussed.



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