What does a behaviour consultant do? Good question. Not one that most people could answer. It’s an emerging field, and it’s only recently that Board Certified Behaviour Therapists (BCBAs) have become relatively easy to find in Canada and the United States.
Behaviour therapists work in prisons, hospitals, schools, and even as consultants to corporations. All of these fields require specialized training, but all of these practitioners base their work on the principles of applied behaviour analysis.
For instance, I work in the area of developmental disability, and childhood behaviour. My clients often need help with language, self-help skills, social skills, and/or self-regulation. My clients also have behavioural excesses or deficits (doing too much of one thing, or not enough.) Some clients have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD or ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), learning disabilities (LD), giftedness, and others have no diagnosis at all.
Here’s what it looks like when I meet a new client:
- Intake: I collect some basic contact information, and listen to your main concerns
- Consent and confidentiality: We meet to review your right to privacy, and the risks and benefits of treatment
- Assessment: I observe the client, and interview key people such as parents and teachers. Sometimes parents may be asked to collect data to record important patterns.
- Intervention: I examine the behaviours of concern, and come up with possible reasons why they may be occurring (or not occurring often enough.) In cooperation with the family, we agree on the best way to teach the new skill, maintain motivation, and manage difficult behaviour when it happens. Some problems require only a few sessions to resolve, while other problems require more training and rehearsal to acquire.
When children are diagnosed with autism, they are usually referred to a behavioural therapist for treatment. However, many family doctors and psychologists aren’t aware that behaviour therapists can help all kinds of families.
Here are some everyday problems I’ve helped to solve:
- siblings fighting over toys
- turning off the iPad
- rowdy bedtimes
- grumpy mornings
- lack of independence
- refusal to shower and brush teeth
- aggression toward peers
- acting appropriate with new baby
How is a behaviour analyst different from a psychologist or a family counsellor? Here are some important distinctions:
- Behaviour analysts do not perform diagnostic tests
- Behaviour analysts seek to make a positive difference in the lives of their clients, but these changes are measured through observed behaviour, not based on reported emotions
- Behaviour analysts often help by increasing motivation, introducing intermediate steps, or clearing away barriers in the environment
If you’re not sure whether a behaviour analyst can help you, send me a note and we’ll talk! If your concern falls outside of my area of expertise, I will be happy to refer you to a more appropriate recommended professional.