Updated: Jun 20, 2020
My greatest mentor in the field has a lot of quips to live by; one of the brightest he ever used has really stood out in my mind; "We are not in the field of ABA for the income... but we are in the field of ABA for the Outcome."
This therefore becomes a major precept in how Behavior Analysts approach their daily work-life-balance. The ones that truly want to instill socially significant change for their clients put everything into their work (heart, soul, mind and body) and are not ultimately getting fulfillment from large salaries. Instead, they are passionate about the changes they observe, the milestones that they help shape, the wins that the family reports, and so to the advancement of our still-young field. From modeling treatment protocols, to teaching parents to prifferentially shape behavior, to even completing assessments at midnight. Their driving force requires a supportive and therapeutic environment very similar to the one we attempt to shape in our treatment sessions. An environment rife with positive behavior principles including clear objectives, supportive prompts and of course, individualized reinforcers.
Unfortunately we do see in our field the attempt to build a treatment modality like cogs in a wheel. This will result in cognitive dissonance for many who are putting all their soul into their caseload. They feel under-appreciated and often times alone in this venture, being spread too thin across caseloads of 15, 20 sometimes even 30 clients. In order for our field to innovate, this paradigm has to shift. We need agencies to put all the available resources required to support their staff, first and foremost. Our goal at San Diego Applied Behavior Analysis is to place our company culture second only to the treatment that we provide to our clients.
As Leif and colleagues succinctly put, "A danger inherent in any large scale, quickly growing area is a loss of focus on meaningful purpose, process, and outcomes. In the field of ABA, this might translate into dogmatic lack of attention to clinical significance, selection of impractical procedures, ritualistic data-collection, over-abundant use of off-putting, dehumanizing terminology, disregard of logistical realities, and insensitivity to consumer issues" (Leaf et al. 2016, p. 728).
We need to remember that OUR happiness equates to our clients' happiness; therefore, the quality of life of our staff is, if not at the least equitable to their ability to put their best foot forward daily, directly correlated with their ability to provide lasting and meaningful treatment outcomes to our clients and families.
Leaf, J. B., Leaf, R., McEachin, J., Taubman, M., Rosales, S., Ross, R. K., et al. (2016). Applied behavior analysis is a science and therefore, progressive. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46, 720–731.