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.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

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Symposium #226
CE Offered: BACB — 
ACTions Speak Louder Than Words: The Vast Utility of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Inside ABA Agencies
Sunday, May 24, 2020
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
Marriott Marquis, Level M4, Liberty M
Area: CSS; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Erin Elizabeth Bertoli (Brett DiNovi & Associates, LLC)
Discussant: Stuart E. Libman (PLEA)
CE Instructor: Erin Elizabeth Bertoli, M.S.

Acceptance and Commitment Training is a topic that has received substantial increased attention within the applied behavior analytic community in recent years. Among the most common concerns ABA practitioners have is about how to actually implement ACT inside of daily mainstream ABA service delivery. This symposium brings together four presentations that describe practical efforts at incorporating ACT into ABA agencies. The first presentation, by Michelle L. Zube, describes how to become versed in ACT and the ways in which organizations can expand professional development and scope of practice with ACT. The second presentation, by Ehren Werntz, describes the use of ACT as part of caregiver training. The third presentation, by Kate Harrison, describes the utility of ACT on a personal level and with colleagues to help reduce stress. The fourth presentation, by Erin Bertoli, describes the use of ACT with struggling youth, including when, why and how behavior analysts can do so while staying within their scope of practice. The symposium concludes with a discussion by Dr. Stuart Libman.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Board Certified Behavior Analysts. Parents are also welcome!

Learning Objectives: 1. Participants will be able to identify ways to become versed in ACT, implications for personal and professional development, scope of practice, and to create cultural shifts within and outside of their organizations. 2. At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to describe strategies to support the use of ACT in a behavior analytic parent training program. 3. Participants will identify at least three actions rooted in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to proactively and reactively assist colleagues in navigating workplace stress and anxiety. 4. Participants will be able to identify when and why BCBAs should consider utilizing ACT with their clients; identify a few different ACT-based models that have been developed for youth; and identify ways to collect data to measure effectiveness.
ACT Now: Ways to Enhance Behavior Analytic Practice with Acceptance and Commitment Training
MICHELLE L ZUBE (Brett DiNovi & Associates, LLC; Caldwell University)
Abstract: Behavior analysts are in high demand and called upon to serve different populations, solve a variety of problems, and to be leaders in the field. Many issues we are faced with require a skill set beyond that of behavioral training. Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) offers a set of skills and solutions to be used in conjunction with behavioral skills to create meaningful change. ACT is not currently included on the Board Certified Behavior Analyst’s (BCBA) Task List however, more BCBAs are beginning to infuse ACT into their practice. There are a number of ways for BCBAs to become well versed in ACT. ACT affords the opportunity for both personal and professional growth. Additionally, ACT enhances behaviorists’ scope of practice while maintaining the integrity of our science. With the growing popularity of ACT, we can not only facilitate change at the micro level but at the macro levels as well.
Clinical Family Coaching: An Example of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in Behavioral Caregiver Training
EHREN J WERNTZ (Arizona Autism United)
Abstract: Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) has gained attention among board certified behavior analysts (BCBA) in recent years as a potentially valuable technology to address a class of clinically relevant behavior, specifically caregiver behavior under the control of private events. Most behavior analysts treat the behavior of children affected by autism and developmental disabilities, a critical component of which is parent and caregiver training. Issues related to caregiver adherence represent a significant vulnerability to effective behavioral treatment and durable outcomes, and they are not new concerns to behavior analysts. What is relatively new is the growing body of evidence to support the incorporation of ACT in behavioral parent training as well as increasingly available training opportunities. While more and more BCBAs are accruing continuing education units in ACT, there remain questions about how it can be effectively and responsibly integrated into existing ABA treatment programs. This presentation will describe one example of an ABA program in which ACT is a prominent component, how it has been integrated, and what steps have been taken to maximize competence and remain in scope.
The Utility of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in Acknowledging and Addressing Stress, and Stress Management, with Your Team
KATE ELIZABETH HARRISON (Brett DiNovi & Associates, LLC)
Abstract: We embark on the great behavior analyst adventure with a vision to help others live fulfilling lives and to have a meaningful impact on the world around us. Throughout that journey, we face the hidden monster of workplace stress, whether caused by managing difficult relationships, unpredictability in schedules, lack of boundaries, emotional and physical fatigue, challenging case loads, or a myriad of other common hurdles. The World Health Organization recently added burnout to its International Classification of Diseases -- a diagnostic tool for medical providers. While comprehensive data on retention rates in the field of applied behavior analysis are difficult to find, anecdotal evidence indicates that burnout is a leading cause of turnover in the field. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) offers leaders the opportunity to cultivate change in their teams’ experiences with stress-related situations by combining acceptance strategies with committed actions, among four other core principles. In order to achieve our ambitious goals, it is imperative that behavior analysts equip their teams with the tools necessary to overcome obstacles and challenges -- ACT does just that.
The Use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy with Struggling Youth: Another Tool for Your Behavior Analytic Toolbox
ERIN ELIZABETH BERTOLI (Brett DiNovi & Associates, LLC)
Abstract: Skinner (1969) made this very clear: behavior analysis is supposed to be a comprehensive science of psychology; a comprehensive science of everything all organisms do, which includes private events. Yet many behavior analysts avoid addressing private events because it seems too mentalistic. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a technology that is grounded in contextual behavior science and is available to utilize with youth who are struggling with rigidity, anxiety, social emotional challenges, mental health issues, and more. While more research is needed, various ACT-based models have been developed for youth, and have the potential to be an effective intervention when direct contingency management has not proven effective. As long as we remain within our scope of practice, this could be the missing link for ABA agencies who are working with struggling youth. Because as a wise man once said, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”



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