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 #577
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Going "Soft": Exploring Compassion, Mindfulness, and the Therapeutic Relationship in Applied and Clinical Behavior Analysis
Monday, May 30, 2022
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Meeting Level 1; Room 156C
Area: PCH/CBM; Domain: Theory
Chair: Jessica Auzenne (University of North Texas)
Discussant: Luisa F Canon (Institute for Effective Behavioral Interventions (IEBI)/ ACT to Thrive)
CE Instructor: Luisa F Canon, Psy.D.

Relationship variables such as mindful presence and compassion, though often dismissed as “soft skills,” are critical to the quality and effectiveness of applied and clinical behavior analysis. The job of a behavior analytic practitioner is to identify, critically analyze, and intervene upon relationships between context and behavior, so that they can promote meaningful change. To the extent that the practitioner is part of the context in which all this takes place, the practitioner-client relationship cannot be extracted from the analysis. In this way, the behavior analytic practitioner’s skills with regards to mindfulness and compassion have immense practical value. In this symposium, the presenters will explore these important variables in the therapeutic relationship and present methods for fostering and measuring such components. The first paper presents a conceptual behavioral analysis of compassionate behavior, along with practical implications for behavior analysts. The second paper presents a multiple baseline study across practitioners on the effects of process-based notetaking on clinical behavior analyst mindfulness and subjective alliance. Finally, the discussant will offer thoughts and invite commentary with regards to relationship variables and the therapeutic context provided in behavior analysis.

Instruction Level: Basic
Target Audience:


Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Describe components of a behavioral definition of compassionate behavior; (2) Describe potential benefits of clinical behavior analytic approaches to in-session psychotherapeutic processes, such as alliance; (3) Describe the value of mindfulness and compassion as variables in the therapeutic relationship
Beyond Experimental Control: Toward a Behavioral Definition of Compassion and Applications for Behavior Analysts
HANNAH KAPLAN-REIMER (Louisiana Contextual Science Research Group), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana Lafayette)
Abstract: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), including clinical behavior analysis, is fundamentally a pro-social practice aimed at helping individuals by expanding their repertoires to be more meaningfully effective. However, ABA has faced criticism for lacking certain qualities of compassionate practices such as warmth and flexibility. Recently, perhaps in partial response to these criticisms, more attention is being paid to how we might foster such practices in the field. Though various definitions and descriptions of compassion have been suggested, having a concise, but comprehensive, functional definition of compassion, or compassionate behavior, would be useful in planning, executing, and training such practices effectively. This paper will provide a brief review of definitions of compassion, with particular attention to the utility of extant definitions of compassion in the behavior analytic literature. In addition, we will propose a functional definition of compassionate behavior in terms of the motivating, establishing, or augmenting functions it has for the recipient’s appetitive repertoire. Finally, we will explore implications of this working definition in terms of recommendations for evoking compassionate behavior in behavior-analytic practice, particularly when working with autistic people, their families, and their therapists. We will conclude with suggestions for further areas of research and development.
Trust the Process: Examining the Effects of Process-Based Note Taking on Therapist Perceptions of Alliance and Therapist Mindfulness
ABBEY WARREN (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana Lafayette)
Abstract: Psychotherapy research has identified the therapeutic alliance between client and therapist as the prototypical integrative variable of therapy due to its importance across all treatment modalities (Wolfe & Goldfried, 1988) and the degree of impact it has on therapy outcome (Jordan, 2003). While most commonly explored outside of behavior analysis, clinical behavior analytic approaches such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP) include explicit incorporation of the therapeutic alliance as a fundamental aspect of the contingencies necessary for clinically-relevant learning. A next step in this line of research involves the identification of therapist behaviors that positively impact the development and strength of alliance. For example, the extent to which a therapist exhibits “mindful” behaviors during a therapy session predicts the strength of the alliance. Process-based approaches to therapy emphasize mindfulness and related constructs as clinical processes of change. This study employs a single-case design to monitor the use and effects of process-based note taking across a small sample of therapists. Using a multiple baseline design, effects on therapist mindfulness and therapist perceptions of alliance will be examined in comparison to a baseline phase without the use of process-based note taking. Implications for future research will be discussed.



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