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.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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Symposium #282
CE Offered: BACB
Strategies to Support Direct Care Providers: Holding Difficult Conversations, Establishing Rapport, and Preventing Burnout
Sunday, May 26, 2024
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Marriott Downtown, Level 3, Liberty Ballroom Salon BC
Area: OBM; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Summer Bottini (Marcus Autism Center)
CE Instructor: Summer Bottini, M.S.

Without adequate support, direct care provider positions may suffer from long hours, large workloads, challenges working with consumers and feelings of burnout (Gibson et al. 2009). This symposium includes three talks that serve as exemplars for how to design and conduct research related to complex workplace phenomena (e.g., having difficult conversations, establishing rapport, and preventing burnout). Ruby will share the findings of an experiment evaluating the effects of a training package consisting of computer-based instruction, a job aid, and a planning worksheet on supervisors’ performance when holding difficult conversations. Mason will describe the results of an experiment evaluating the effects of two conditions (i.e., one with several rapport-building opportunities and another condition without) on undergraduate students’ performance when completing a check processing task. In addition, Mason will share results about participants’ preferences for each condition. Bottini will summarize the findings of an online survey that contained the Stress Diagnostic Checklist and was designed to identify workplace variables maintaining burnout in direct care providers working in ABA agencies.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): burnout, difficult conversations, rapport building, staff training
Target Audience:

Presentations during this symposium will be delivered at an intermediate instruction level. Target audience members should be familiar with common staff training procedures (e.g., BST, CBI) to maximize learning during this symposium.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the symposium, attendees will be able to: (1) Describe the behaviors involved in a difficult conversation; (2) Discuss procedures to build rapport with supervisees; and (3) Identify three environmental determinants of burnout
Evaluating a Training Package on Supervisors’ Difficult Conversations in the Workplace
SANDRA ALEX RUBY (ALULA; University of Kansas), Florence D. DiGennaro Reed (University of Kansas), Grace Elizabeth Bartle (University of Kansas), J Turner Braren (University of Kansas), Eliza Goben (University of Kansas), Matthew M Laske (University of Kansas), Hanna Vance (University of Florida)
Abstract: Addressing a staff member’s unprofessional behavior, discussing an interpersonal conflict, or broaching the subject of inadequate personal hygiene may cause discomfort, conflict, and organizational loss if these conversations are not handled appropriately. When these conversations are handled appropriately, survey data suggests productivity may increase up to 25%, which impacts service quality and organizational outcomes. In the current study, we synthesized recommended practices in popular psychology and behavior analytic literature to define and describe difficult conversations from a behavioral perspective. We used a multiple baseline design to evaluate a training package consisting of computer-based instruction, a planning worksheet, and a job aid on supervisors’ difficult conversations. Results demonstrate increased percentages of conversation integrity across all four supervisors who work in settings supporting adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The effects of training generalized for all three participants for whom generalization probes were conducted. The social validity of the difficult conversation behaviors and the training package will be discussed.
Rapport: To Build or Not to Build
MAKENNA MASON (California State University, Sacramento), Denys Brand (California State University, Sacramento), Joshua Bensemann (The University of Auckland, New Zealand)
Abstract: Building rapport (i.e., verbal and non-verbal behaviors resulting in positive relationships between individuals) benefits organizations and employees (e.g., increased opportunities to provide feedback and training). Curry et al. (2019) found that building rapport resulted in increased productivity and discretionary effort when participants completed a check processing task. However, the study had three limitations: 1) naturalistic conversation could not occur, 2) participants experienced one 15-minute rapport building session, and 3) an indirect measure was used to assess the participants’ perception of rapport with the researcher. The present study addressed these limitations with researchers engaging in more naturalistic conversation and by using an alternating treatments design that allowed for repeated rapport building opportunities with undergraduate students. Additionally, a direct measure (i.e., choice) was used to assess participants’ preference. Participants worked with two researchers; one who built rapport and one that did not. Performance was measured through the completion of a simulated work task (i.e., check processing task). During the final phase of the study, preference for the researchers was also assessed. We found that participants completed more checks when completing the task with the researcher with whom rapport was established. Moreover, all participants had a preference for working with the rapport researcher.
A Data-Driven Approach to Addressing Staff Burnout: Development of the Stress Diagnostic Checklist
SUMMER BOTTINI (Marcus Autism Center; Emory University School of Medicine), Alexandra Hardee (Marcus Autism Center; Trumpet Behavioral Health), Mindy Christine Scheithauer (Marcus Autism Center; Emory University School of Medicine), Laura Johnson (Emory University), Scott Gillespie (Emory University), Lawrence Scahill (Marcus Autism Center; Emory University)
Abstract: Job burnout is defined as chronic stress due to aversive work characteristics/contingencies and is present in ~72% of ABA practitioners (Slowiak & DeLongchamp, 2022). This is concerning given the negative impact of burnout on service delivery. Current approaches to address burnout take a syndromal approach wherein organizations provide resources, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, to change individual employee symptoms of burnout. Systematic reviews of these types of interventions demonstrate show inconsistent and small effects. Alternatively, a function-based approach wherein addressing workplace factors maintaining burnout shows promise. However, there are few tools to identify workplace factors and no tools specific to settings like ABA organizations. This study aimed to further develop the Stress Diagnostic Checklist, a self-report questionnaire that identifies workplace variables related to stress among providers within clinical settings. We recruited 566 direct care providers. Participants completed an online survey containing the Stress Diagnostic Checklist. Exploratory factor analysis yielded an optimal factor solution of 3 factors (Table 1). In this presentation, we will discuss the importance of a data-driven approach to addressing burnout, implications of the present findings, and how using tools like the Stress Diagnostic Checklist may improve organizational efforts to mitigate burnout.



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