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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #111
CE Offered: BACB — 
Measurement and Analysis of the Relation Between Supervision and Burnout Among Applied Behavior Analysis Professionals
Saturday, May 28, 2022
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Meeting Level 1; Room 153C
Area: OBM; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Kate E. Fiske Massey (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University)
CE Instructor: Isabella Massaro, M.A.

Research indicates that staff members working in the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA) report high levels of burnout associated with variables that include the support they receive from supervisors (Gibson et al., 2009; Plantiveau et al., 2018). However, limitations related to the measurement of burnout and supervisory skills constrain further investigation of this relationship. This symposium will present three related studies that seek to define and measure burnout, quality of supervisory skills, and the relation between the two. We will first explore the psychometric properties of the Stress Diagnostic Checklist (SDC), a measure developed to assess stressors faced by behavior therapists providing intervention to youth with autism spectrum disorders and related populations. We will then consider the measurement of effective supervisory behavior using the Operant Supervisory Taxonomy and Index (OSTI). Finally, we will examine rates of burnout among ABA professionals and the extent to which compassionate supervisory skills influence burnout.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Burnout, Measurement, Supervision
Target Audience:

The symposium is geared toward supervisors in the field of applied behavior analysis. As such, the attendee should possess basic competence in management and supervision of others, including the use of behavioral skills training (BST).

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe burnout using observable environmental variables; (2) identify effective qualities of supervisors according to the Operant Supervisory Taxonomy and Index; (3) list compassionate behaviors that can be utilized in supervisory contexts.

Toward Better Understanding of Burnout in Behavior Therapists: A Pilot of the Stress Diagnostic Checklist

SUMMER BOTTINI (May Institute), Joanna Lomas Mevers (Marcus Autism Center), Mindy Christine Scheithauer (Marcus Autism Center), Lawrence Scahill (Emory University)

Behavior therapists are at high risk for experiencing burnout. Burnout is a pressing concern given its negative consequences on the therapist, recipients of behavioral intervention, and the service delivery system at large. To date, burnout is predominantly measured as a mentalistic construct through self-reported surveys of current stress level. Alternatively, a functional-approach whereby burnout is measured via identifiable environmental variables associated with work may yield important information for intervening. We propose the Stress Diagnostic Checklist (SDC), a novel measure that assesses stressors facing behavior therapists providing intervention to autistic youth and related populations. This symposium will present initial psychometric properties of the SDC and commonly reported stressors. A total of 44 behavior therapists took an online survey including the SDC, traditional measures of burnout level, and measures of psychological flexibility and organizational commitment. Findings suggest the SDC has appropriate internal consistency across hypothesized environmental stressors and adequate test-retest reliability across two months. Comparison with other measures also suggest the SDC has promising convergent and discriminant validity. Taken together, the SDC may be a viable tool for identifying stressors in behavior therapists and potential targets for burnout prevention within behavioral service delivery settings.

A Proposed Framework to Identify and Measure Supervisor Behavior
ALYSSA R MCELROY (Western Michigan University), Jessica E. Van Stratton (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: With the recent increase in demand for behavior analysts (BACB, 2021), the field has begun to discuss how to define, measure, and improve supervisor behavior. The special section on supervision in Behavior Analysis in Practice (2016), authors postulated a myriad of important supervisory behaviors; however, to date, no distinct measurement system has been adopted fieldwide. Komaki and colleagues (1986) described and validated the Operant Supervisory Taxonomy and Index (OSTI) with a primary purpose to identify and classify behavior of effective supervisors. Komaki’s OSTI may provide a parsimonious framework to describe and analyze supervisor behavior and guide future research to further identify and validate best practices for behavior analytic supervision. Thus, the purpose of this study was to conduct a descriptive analysis of two supervisors’ behaviors during meetings with trainees using the OSTI. Specifically, videos of supervision meetings were analyzed, and supervisors’ behaviors were coded using a partial interval scoring method to determine how much time each supervisor engaged in specific categories of behavior. Results of this analysis and future directions of behavior analytic supervision, research, and practice, including the utility of this framework, will be discussed.
Compassionate Supervisory Practices as Predictors of Burnout in Applied Behavior Analysis Providers
AMANDA AUSTIN (Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey), Kate E. Fiske Massey (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University)
Abstract: Recent position papers have called for a focus on compassion in the training and practice of board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs; LeBlanc et al., 2019; Taylor et al., 2018). Much of this preliminary effort emphasizes the importance of compassion in behavior analysts’ work with families of individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities, highlighting research from other fields that demonstrates a relation between practitioner empathy and patient outcome. However, some research in burnout among applied behavior analysis (ABA) professionals indicates that supervisory relationships play important roles in the well-being of ABA professionals (Gibson et al., 2009). This presentation will report on findings from a survey of approximately 200 ABA providers that measures burnout and BCBA engagement in 29 supervisory practices. Descriptive analyses will highlight staff perceptions of BCBAs’ engagement in each practice. Multiple regression analyses will be conducted to determine the extent to which the use of compassion in supervision predicts staff burnout. Preliminary descriptive findings reveal several supervisory practices that BCBAs are not currently practicing regularly, notably the provision of feedback and use of praise. Implications for the training of BCBAs in supervision and for behavior analytic organizations will be discussed.



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