Dear Behavior Analysis:  From Applied Behavior Analyst, With Love

By Adam Ventura, M.S., BCBA

bSci21 Contributing Writer

Dear Behavior Analysis,

From the very first moment I sat in class and heard your name, to the first mand trial that my inaugural client scored correctly, all the way to the original certification I got with your name on it, I knew one thing for certain: we would be together forever.

It was a connection that I knew was deep and meaningful.  Once an analyst, always an analyst, I vowed, through sickness and health till certification revocation do us part.  Before I met you, I was promiscuous and engaged in a series of flings with other theories and disciplines.  But they were superficial; none of them were scientific, like you. They meant nothing to me.

I remember the vacations we took together and the places we visited.  When we were on holiday, I spoke about you in high regard to large groups of people and explained the inner workings of our relationship through data sets and PowerPoint slides.  Afterwards, I took part in celebrations in your honor and encouraged others to do the same. 

I advocated for your rights to our state congress to ensure that you were licensed, just as any dedicated significant other would do.  We were inseparable. Sometimes I even got a little jealous when I read about the other people that you used to spend time with and all of the great things you accomplished together.  But in my heart, I knew that without your relationships with them, and their contributions to your progress, we would never have met, and I would be worse off for it. 

The reason I am sending this letter to you is because I am concerned about our relationship.  We have been together for many years now, and lately I feel as if we have been drifting apart.  When we first met, all I could think about was spending time with you. We talked for hours about all of the great things that we would someday accomplish together.  Now, it seems that the honeymoon is over. Our interactions are filled with arguments and frustration over how we spend our time:  You want to focus on academic endeavors, while my interests lie in OBM and therapy.

To broaden our conversations, I want to welcome newcomers to our circle of friends, but you prefer keeping company with those who are familiar. And when we do meet new acquaintances, you insist on using words and phrases that are just between us that they don’t understand.

If I get a text from RFT, you get upset and think I am cheating on you and don’t value verbal behavior, when in reality I just want to find new ways to grow our relationship.

I know this sounds as if I am complaining, but this relationship matters to me. As I reflect on this, I keep wondering: are our differences… irreconcilable? So, in an effort to save our relationship, I have typed up my concerns in hopes that you care enough about me to address them and help save what we have built:

  1. Baby, I understand that without research there would be no respectable application, but without the desire to change behavior of social significance, there would be no funding or resources to do the research you love so much. 
  2. I understand when you say that in the absence of good graduate programs there would be no competent analysts to work in the field, but if it were not for growing businesses, graduate program admissions would drop because one of the most important things to college students is getting a job. 
  3. If we don’t talk to other fields about our relationship and the great work that we have done together, we are ignoring our new marriage contract, which said that we should disseminate our ideas to all who would listen.  Remember, it was called the Professional and Ethical Compliance Code, and we got it from our special place…the BACB.
  4. And sweetie, when we go out and meet new people, it’s important for us to speak so that they can understand us; otherwise, we won’t be able to make new friends and expand our relationship.  A long time ago, one of our closest friends, Jon Bailey (1991), talked to us about the importance of not speaking down to others, especially if we wanted to meet new people. I think his words were important and we should take heed, if we want this to work.

I guess what I am saying is that we need each other, and the only way this relationship is going to stand the test of time is if we work together.  So…I would like to start fresh and renew our vows:

  1. I promise to spend more time with you at the library doing research before I decide on interventions to use, if you promise to spend more time looking up applied research and not just focusing on basic research.
  2. I promise to start injecting more of our terms and sayings into conversations with our friends, if you promise to not be so strict with your verbiage and relax during our nights out.
  3. I promise to never even look at another theory again, unless it is scientific and works with the values of our relationship, if you promise to make an effort to meet new people and embrace new disciplines.
  4. I promise to spend more time teaching at universities and encouraging young people to learn about our relationship, if you promise to spend some time helping businesses get started and perform more efficiently.   

I know things have been difficult lately, but I feel confident that we can get through this. No one knows more about teaching and changing behavior than you and I do, so if any couple can get through this, it’s us. One of the most important things I learned from you over the years is that relationships are bi-directional, which means we both have to work at this if we want it to survive. So please remember my words and what we mean to each other, our connection is not just a passing fad, but a long lasting, symbiotic relationship. 

With love,

Applied Behavior Analyst

EAB & ABA 4-ever.

How would your “Dear Behavior Analysis” letter read?  Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!


Bailey, J. S. (1991). Marketing behavior analysis requires different talk. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 3, 445–448.

AVV_MG_9885Adam Ventura, M.S., BCBA is a graduate of Florida International University and has been a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) since 2008. Adam is the founder and CEO of World Evolve, Inc., a behavioral organization located in south Florida. Adam has been working in the field of applied behavior analysis for over 10 years and has experience working with children and adults with varying disabilities. Adam was a member of the local review committee in Miami, Florida for over three years and is currently a member of the behavior analysis and practice committee (BAPC) for the state of Florida. Adam also currently serves an adjunct professor in the psychology department at Florida International University where he has been teaching undergraduate courses in behavior analysis since 2009. Adam is also the co-founder of two public benefit corporations, namely, The Code Of Ethics for Behavioral Organizations (COEBO) and the Miami Association for Behavior Analysis (MiABA). Adam’s experience has extended beyond the clinical realm and into the business world as he has been responsible for creating several new businesses with and without partners in various industries. Adam’s current focus is on business ethics and technological applications of Behavior Analysis.  You can contact him at [email protected].

10 Comments on "Dear Behavior Analysis:  From Applied Behavior Analyst, With Love "

  1. I absolutely loved this! I have sometimes struggled with- I don’t want to become a BCBA because I’m afraid I will loose my ability to talk to people in a way they understand and promote positive change. I know, I need to be well versed in the language yet fear I will become like a group of people who are not easily understood by many. Thank you for writing this, it gives me hope.

  2. Clelia Sigaud | March 2, 2016 at 4:52 pm | Reply

    This is absolutely perfect.

  3. JAN LUIZ LEONARDI | April 9, 2016 at 7:36 am | Reply

    Amazing. This is exactly how I feel, as I once was in love with Behavior Analysis and work in private practice as a psychotherapist within the context of Evidence-Based Practice. (I hope Behavior Analysis doesn’t get angry because of the word “psycho”).

  4. Adam, I really like the part about speaking the language that everyone understands and staying away from the jargon when speaking with general audiences.

  5. Clever! Two thumbs up 🙂

  6. Yaisy Costales | April 24, 2017 at 6:23 pm | Reply

    Really enjoyed reading this Adam! Thanks!

  7. This is solid, behavioral science gold:) As a BCBA who is developing models for reducing anxiety, improving productivity and teaching healthier lifestyles, I appreciate the innovators in our field who remain respectful of science but tied to their applied values. Thanks Adam!

  8. Behavior Analysts, for all their insistence on technical precision work from their heart. Written and read with love. Thanks Adam

  9. Thank you for the positive feedback everyone!

  10. Really nice piece. Well said, and made me smile.

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