Knowing what’s under your control as a BCBA

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

Brett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA

Brett DiNovi & Associates

Healthcare professionals in most specialties go into their field to create a better world. They often care deeply for their clients and the quality of their care. These tendencies can make for improved care for clients; however, they may at times contribute to the likelihood that a provider becomes frustrated and burnout treating difficult cases. As a caring professional, it is important that you keep in mind what is in your control and what is not. Taking such a stance can help you to stay positive and motivated to provide the best care for your clients.

In a recent video by Brett DiNovi & Associates, Brett and his staff discuss how behavior analysts can respond effectively to common challenges in clinical care that providers often find frustrating. As providers, we must remember that we only interact with our clients a small percentage of the time. The client’s environment, including parents and other providers, contribute greatly to the success or failures that you may experience as a provider.

As a provider, you should attempt to gain ‘buy-in’ from other providers and parents to complete behavior plans effectively; however, recognize that you can only make recommendations. It is the responsibility of the parents or other caregivers involved to act on your recommendations in order to help the client progress most effectively. In the event that you cannot gain appropriate ‘buy-in’ for a behavior plan, you can describe the impact of this on the client’s progress to the parents/providers involved and hope for corrective action. Should the parents/providers choose not to alter their behavior, you may only be able to make limited treatment gains with the case. If this is the case, focus your energy on those treatment gains that can be made and consider retargeting the behavior at a later time when/if the parents/providers are more motivated to follow the behavior plan.

You may find that you simply need to conserve your energy and motivation for those areas where you can make the most difference.  You may find that you simply need to conserve your energy and motivation for those areas where you can make the most difference. Most of the time, the work you put into improving the lives of your clients doesn’t unravel overnight.  It is more likely that the learner comes to discriminate when to act appropriately in which setting.  As a clinician, it can be comforting to see that your presence exerts stimulus control and progress can be made.

As providers, your ability to help others is not only impacted by your level of skill but by how well you maintain your boundaries and meet your own needs. Similarly, your ability to maintain your motivation in the face of challenges can be significantly impacted by the perspective from which you view your client’s progress. Human behavior is highly variable. Behavior change is a non-linear process. There will be days in which your clients appear to have lost all treatment gains or display new problematic behaviors. It is important to keep an eye on overall trends in their improvement to maintain your motivation.

Be sure to check out the full video, and to subscribe to Brett DiNovi’s YouTube channel and let him know what you would like to see in future videos.  Also, be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world,  bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog and its subsidiaries, bSciEntrepreneurial, bSciWebDesign, bSciWriting, and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  Dr. Ward has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward is passionate about disseminating behavior analysis to the world and growing the field through entrepreneurship. Todd can be reached at [email protected]


Brett DinoviBrett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA has the unique and distinguished experience of studying the principles of applied behavior analysis under the rigorous scrutiny of both Dr. Julie S. Vargas (formerly Skinner) and Dr. E.A. Vargas at West Virginia University’s internationally recognized program. For the past 26 years, Brett has used behavior analytic principles to create large scale change across school districts, Fortune 500 companies using principles of Organizational Behavior Management (OBM), and across individual learners. Brett has been a OBM consultant in Morgantown WV, an instructor at West Virginia University, a guest lecturer at numerous universities, a speaker on multiple Comcast Newsmakers TV programs, an expert witness in due process hearings, has publications in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, and has been in in executive leadership positions across schools and residential programs nationwide. In addition to an award from South Jersey Biz Magazine for “Best Places to Work,” an award for “Best of Families” in Suburban Magazine, and the distinguished “Top Ranked U.S. Executives” award, Brett’s proudest accomplishment is being a role model and father for his daughter and two stepchildren (one of which has autism). Brett can be reached at [email protected]

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1 Comment

  1. If you are not making progress with your client consider stepping asside. The client/family might respond better with another provider. You may have some bias you are not aware of. The client/family may be picking up on that.

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