ACT BootCamp – SAN DIEGO
What’s In It For Behavior Analysts?
By Tom Szabo, PhD, BCBA-D
Have you ever found yourself teaching a parent to be contingent and discovered that his self-rules are interfering with his ABA follow-through? A few examples might help: “I can’t handle this – it’s not what I’m good at. I’m the Dad.” Or, “Can’t you just do your job and heal my kid. You’re the behavior analyst.” Another one you might have heard is, “What if I can’t do all that?”
Or maybe you’ve worked with a child who insists that the rules are this way and not that, that the route from here to there is on this street and if you do it differently…
Situations like these are not uncommon. We come across them all the time. And when I’m honest, I notice myself behaving in the context of rules like these, too. “I can’t give you any more assistance. You just have to jump in there now and try this yourself.”
Wow. That was helpful.
Reason-giving, rule-following, and their many faces such as shyness, irritability, and passive-aggressive behavior are behavioral repertoires. They’re selected by our learning histories and environment.
But rules and reasons are more than just behavior. After having been emitted, these behaviors leave behind products, verbal stimuli that function with both discriminative and consequent functions. Reasons and rules are indirect-acting verbal stimulus products, and they can be very powerful at times, locking us off from more important sources of reinforcement.
In ACT BootCamps, we teach you an intervention strategy aimed at bringing behavior that’s under the control of unhelpful indirect-acting contingencies back in direct contact with relevant contingencies of reinforcement. In simple terms, ACT is behavioral flexibility training.
You might wonder, “Sure, but how do I use any of this and stay within my scope of practice as a behavior analyst?” That’s an important question. In fact, it’s the right question for you to be asking, and one that we address head on in ACT BootCamp during our evening sessions.
The short answer is this:
ABA involves principles derived from the experimental and conceptual analyses of behavior. Baer, Wolf, and Risley (1968) articulated an additional set of strategies and tactics for making behavior analysis useful to people facing real-world problems more complex than those encountered in the basic labs. Behavior analysts today are beholden to working within the seven dimensions of ABA that these pioneers envisioned, and that are the cornerstone of our BACB 4th Edition Task List.
ACT offers a set of tools that are consistent with these seven dimensions of ABA and gives you new ways to approach behavioral rigidity. It’s a pragmatic approach to behavior analytic practice that is sensitive to the ways that people typically speak about their thoughts and emotions.
Importantly, ACT places the work we do as ABA practitioners into a broader context of igniting change that begins locally and extends far into the nexus of problems that we face globally.
ACT is fun. It’s often very light; and it’s a way of sharing your deepest sense of caring, human imperfectness, and love with others. It’s not what you’d expect.
And, it is behavior analysis.
Check it out. We think there’s something in ACT BootCamp for you.
Tom Szabo, PhD, BCBA-D, is a faculty member in the Hybrid Master’s Degree Program for Professional Behavior Analysis at the Florida Institute of Technology, site director at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, an internationally recognized ACT trainer, a practicing Board Certified Behavior Analyst, and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno, where he studied under Steven C. Hayes and W. Larry Williams. Over the last 10 years, Tom has focused his practice on teaching people ways to ignite behavioral flexibility in their personal lives and with others in clinical practice, schools, board rooms, shop floors, and community centers. He is particularly interested in teaching people ways to use the “psyflex model” (aka ACT) to support individuals with high functioning autism and their families. With the Commit & Act Foundation, Tom has trained therapists in Sierra Leone working with individuals who’ve committed acts of gender-based violence and he is currently conducting funded research on ways to reduce intra-familial violence. With his students, Tom investigates behavioral flexibility training and clinical RFT. He has published empirical and conceptual papers, as well as several book chapters.