By: J. M. Coimbra, MS, BCBA, LBA

Great behavior analysts make socially significant behavior change by altering environments. It might sound easy, but doing it isn’t so simple.

Do you think you have what it takes to become a great behavior analyst in 2019? Here’s a mini “task analysis” of critical components I think you’ll need to make that happen.

1 – Cute Doesn’t Count

Adorable children, funny topographies, and charming smiles shouldn’t affect you as a behavior analyst, when you’re “on the job.” It’s hard to ignore the chubby-cheeked face of a formerly “nonverbal” five-year-old who is hugging your leg and says, “you melt my heart,” in response to denied access to a preferred edible, but it’s what we may have to do in order to do our job right. Follow through! Your client has everyone else in the world to give in to maladaptive behaviors, so we must remember that we are there to make changes that ultimately provide our clients with greater opportunity to contact reinforcement in their lives.

2 – Love the Science

If you’re not already in it because of the science, then learn to love it. The science of behavior analysis will always be the rock you can lean on when your behavior analysis colleagues and friends fail you. Think, “What would Skinner do?” (experiment!) or “What would Malott do?” (hit them with a rolling pin!*), and probably best, “What will JABA tell me? (everything!, or see “What would Skinner do?”). A good supervisor will want to hear, “I want to help people,” but a great one will want to know you want to do what you were trained to do via an undergraduate degree, a master’s degree, and hundreds to thousands of supervision hours – science!

3 – Stay Humble

Out from the pigeon lab, we emerge into the natural environment. What could go wrong? Think bootleg reinforcement, extraneous reinforcement, and rule-governed behavior just to name a few. Just because you predict a solution, doesn’t mean it’ll work out. Come up with a backup plan and don’t be shy about it. Being the professional and utilizing another approach if the data don’t reflect the required change are not mutually exclusive! As behavior analysts we rely on observation, analysis, generality, and have an ethical responsibility to stand by those tenets of behavior analysis. Let’s do it.

4 – Expect Variability From Everyone Except Yourself

Rarely will the performance of our clients be as precisely controlled and stable as Carr and Durand (1985**; How’d they do that?), nor will the performances of the intervening team be perfect. What do we do? We remain consistent and stable as a model and do our best to always help. Be prepared for hiccups, hurdles, and the occasional headbutt (figurative and literal). Support your client, the family, and the paraprofessionals as the environment ever-changes due to your influence and all other possible, even if not probable, factors.

5 – Highlight Your Professionalism

By now, we know we are not babysitters, so show that. Model to your team and families what it means to hold up your end of an intervention no matter how difficult it is to do so. Let the team know that you know how to make behavior change happen ethically and with the client’s best interests “at mind.” Remind the team that as hard as it may be – “cute doesn’t count!” and that you’re dedicated to making sustainable change to improve the lives of each end every one of your clients.

If you’re looking for an amazing work environment and a real opportunity to become the best behavioral analyst you can be, consider applying for a job with Attentive Behavior Care today.

*Malott, R. W. (1972). Contingency Management in Education & Other Equally Exciting Places. Kalamazoo, MI: Behaviordelia.

**Carr, E. G., & Durand, V. M. (1985). Reducing behavior problems through functional communication training. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 18 (2), 111-126. doi: 10.1901/jaba.1985.18-111