Where Competency Resides
Amanda Ralston Nov 5·2 min read
I got to spend some quality time with a lot of young-to-the-field BCBAs this week at the defy community Burnout Retreat. What I heard #loudandclear is that they *want* more support. They know they *need* more support. Not just mentally and emotionally, but practically.
We eagerly discussed the concept of a Residency program, post-certification. They welcomed the idea of the space and time to gain the soft skills and mentored application of the concepts and practices that they have the knowledge to pass the exam with, but little-to-no varied and independent applied practice with reinforcement (or behavior-shaping punishment for that matter).
They want a safe space to learn applied skills and come in contact with the contingencies of reinforcement or punishment that will shape their practice and thinking without threat of harm to their clients, their clinics, coworkers, certification, livelihood, community, and sense of self — because they came to this field to help.
To assume they have received proper training and mentorship prior to, or during, their supervised experience is to pass the buck from certification to supervisor and from employer to employee. It rewards growth over quality and sets in motion an orbit for a full solar system revolving around a dark star — one that will inevitably implode and leave that pocket of the capitalist universe dark and barren: No payor reimbursement for lack of empirical support for efficacy. No clinicians for lack of supported employment. No field for lack of clinicians. And most detrimentally — no services for the constituents that have blessed us all with this opportunity through decades of advocacy.
We are in the climate-change moment of our field. Radical steps are needed in order to course-correct. Choices must be made. We can invest in sustainable practices to save our planet ABA, or we can trudge ahead and watch the ever-quickening death of the resources and environment that supports our life force.
I try not to be a pessimist about these issues — Which is different than saying that I try to be an optimist about these issues. But when my very expensive hotel tells me that I can help “save the earth” by not washing my towels on a daily basis rather than paying its housekeeping staff a living wage with benefits — my eyes blur and my internal mental server goes offline.
I guess I hope that by writing about these things, a little social-learning theory will kick in. Maybe some accidental reinforcement will happen and somebody will bump into a novel repertoire of behavior. And maybe, by some magical transitory MO, we’ll all find a better path to reinforcement.