Coaches’ Corner: Putting Academics to Practice

Coaches’ Corner: Putting Academics to Practice

Working in the field of behavior analysis is often accompanied with a practitioner that his highly invested in the individuals they serve. This emphasis is delightful and allows for strong delivery of aim for best care. However, a byproduct of this can be that this clinician overlooks the change of their own socially significant behavior. A critical practice for anyone invested in changing their own behavior (especially a student or practitioner of behavior analysis) involves application of the very techniques used each day toward their own behavior. While application of behavior analytic principles and tactics toward one’s own socially significant behavior may be difficult to tackle, it is extremely rewarding. Additionally, a clinician that takes care of themselves will be able to sustain the care they provide with more longevity and endurance.   

 Finding the time for yourself can be a challenge but start where you can. To make things as simple as possible, consider beginning with three steps (adapted from Cooper, Heron Heward, 2007): (1) identify the behaviors you want to change (2) begin self-monitoring (3) identify the contingencies currently keeping these behaviors in place.   

Spending the time to put pen to paper is a critical place to start. By taking the time to think of the behavior, how it looks, how often you’d like it to occur or what you’d prefer to take its place gives the clinician the very information they need when working with an individual. We may assume that since we live in this body, this information is “known” to us, but writing it down allows us to take a step away from what otherwise seems to just occur—and ultimately allows us to participate in what occurs based on the information we’ve gathered. Just starting here is big! The scary and exciting part then can be monitoring. Since you’ve defined the behavior, you can put a metric on this response. This can be as simple or fancy as you’d like. One simple option is the use of a piece of graph paper. You can track the number of responses per day or fill in boxes based on the behavior you’ve described. One recommendation is to place this piece of paper some where it will not be overlooked. Accessible and readily visible display of this information and data is critical to your participation with this process. Tucking it away can allow for easy future avoidance, but taping it to a hard surface, ensures that it is a stimulus you will attend to (ideally increasing your involvement with change of your own behavior).   

Finally, once you’ve got some bits of data collected, and because you’ve been more actively involved in your own behavior, first look at the behavior – it’s possible, and common that tracking alone can impact your behavior. If so, excellent! If not or not quite to the desired level, spend some time considering the contingencies at play. Also consider what modifications you could make to make your preferred behavior more likely. This part is where it gets “fun” – you get to put your hands on the data and participate to the next level in your behavior change in the same way you might with the individuals you serve. Starting can often be the most difficult part, but if you have identified what you want to change, have a system of measurement and have an idea of reinforcers in place, you can allow the analytic skills you know to be utilized to take your goals to the next level.