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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #17
Cultural Sensitivity and Behavior Analysis: A Theoretical and Practical Discourse
Saturday, May 24, 2014
1:00 PM–1:50 PM
W184d (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: PRA/CSE; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: David J. Cox (STE Consultants, LLC)

Since the 1990s cultural competence or cultural sensitivity has been touted as integral to effective and ethical client care. Behavior analysts are expected to educate clients and their families about their options, engage them in conversations about their values and motivations, and enable clients to make their own treatment choices based on their unique understanding of their best interests. This process of education and shared decision making is undoubtedly more challenging when clients and caregivers do not share common language, world view, or belief system. Behavior analysts also have an obligation to recognize how their own cultural identities influence how they perceive, analyze, and negotiate ethical and clinical dilemmas. They also have a responsibility to recognize that clients belonging to visible minorities frequently face real barriers in accessing high-quality healthcare. Clients who have experienced these barriers may mistrust healthcare professionals, compounding communication challenges. Effectively understanding and working within the parameters of a client's self-identified culture can provide an opportunity to help build trust between the client(s) and the behavior analytic team of practitioners which can, in turn, help maximize the effectiveness of the treatment program. As such, this symposium focuses on aiding behavior analysts in understanding the world view and belief system of their clients from a theoretical and practical standpoint. In addition, this symposium offers further insight through a discipline translational presentation allowing behavior analysts to take advantage of work done in this area from clinical counseling.

Keyword(s): Cultural Sensitivity, Ethics

Cultural Competency as it Relates to Delivering Behavior-Analytic Services

SEAN FIELD (Western Michigan University), Shawn Patrick Quigley (Western Michigan University), Matthew T. Brodhead (Utah State University)

As the population of culturally and linguistically diverse individuals in the United States continues to grow, so does the need to advance our understanding of cultural competency from a behavior analytic perspective. One specific area of interest is the dynamic interactions between cultural competency and ethical behavior of the practicing behavior analysts. Given that behavior-analytic settings often differ from other related psychological services (e.g., intensity, duration, location of services, and stakeholders), an analysis of cultural competency and ethical behavior in behavior-analytic settings may be warranted. In this presentation we define culture from various psychological perspectives and explore how current practitioners in behavior-analytic settings may be utilizing various concepts of culture in their daily practice. With this information, we will provide recommendations for how practicing behavior analysts may continue to adapt to changing demographics of clientele while maintaining an ethical approach to solving socially significant behavior problems.


Strategies for Tacting and Responding to Mands for Cultural Sensitivity Emitted by Clients

DAVID J. COX (STE Consultants, LLC)

Understanding the individual, familial, and broader cultural values clients communicate or adhere to is an important and crucial aspect of ensuring social validity of the behavior analytic services provided by practitioners of applied behavior analysis. In some instances the client, their extended family, and/or other relevant stakeholders may mand for specific target behaviors (or chains of behaviors) and for the accommodation of religious, cultural, or alternative therapies within the applied behavior analytic setting. Failing to accommodate these requests has the potential to significantly impact the practitioner-client or practitioner-practitioner relationship resulting in subsequent decrement in treatment adherence and fidelity of the outlined treatment program by those in disagreement with the behavior analyst. However, not all requests are ethically equal and acquiescing to the above mentioned client requests may result in a violation of the Guidelines for Responsible Conduct for Behavior Analysts. As such, this presentation focuses on how the behavior analytic practitioner can correctly tact and analyze the ethical appropriateness of treatment requests premised on cultural identity, when consultation with a "cultural authority" may be appropriate, and how practitioners ought to respond when clients and families argue they are "compelled to do certain things" because of their religious or cultural identity.


Cultural Sensitivity: Translated Lessons from Clinical Counseling through Verbal Behavior


As Behavior Analysts, we work with a multitude of populations in a variety of different settings. We seek to change socially significant behavior and we assert that said behavior occurs within an environmental context (Cooper, Heron, Heward, 2007). Critical then, is building rapport with the families, caregivers, communities, and the individuals we work with such that a broader understanding of their environment/culture can be achieved. This discussion draws from a clinical framework laid forth by the field of Multicultural Counseling/Therapy. I offer my behavior analytic interpretations of the MCT definitions of 'Cultural Competence,' 'Cultural Sensitivity,' and 'Implications for Clinical Practice' and provide recommendations for application and generalization within a behavior analytic context.




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