Ethical supervision is important in ABA therapy because it sets the foundation for new BCBAs and BCaBAs to successfully create better outcomes for their clients. In addition to protecting clients, ethical supervision protects practitioners and maintains the integrity of ABA practice, creating better outcomes for all. This article will discuss ways ABA practitioners can maintain ethical supervisory practices, as well as 2022 updates to the BACB Ethics Code for Behavior Analysts.
2022 Supervision Changes
On January 1st, 2022, changes were made to Section 4 of the Code of Ethics to improve supervisory outcomes. Some of those changes include the following:
4.02 Supervisory Competence
The Board realized there was a need for increased competency in training. This code states, “Behavior analysts supervise and train others only within their identified scope of competence. They provide supervision only after obtaining knowledge and skills in effective supervisory practices, and they continually evaluate and improve their supervisory repertoires through professional development.” This ensures trainees only learn from those with the necessary skills, experience, and continued education.
4.03 Supervisory Volume
Another change to the 2022 Code of Ethics is accounting for supervisory volume. BCBAs should consider relevant factors like client demands, current trainee caseload, and time and logistical resources on an ongoing basis. After evaluating these factors, they should then determine whether they can take on additional trainees. If BCBAs feel their threshold volume has been reached, that can be documented and communicated with their management.
4.04 Accountability in Supervision
This new code says that BCBAs are accountable for their supervisory practices and trainees. Essentially, if a BCBA takes a trainee under their wing, they’re responsible for getting them ready to be a BCBA or BCaBA.
Providing Adequate Supervision
The changes to the code of ethics were designed to provide BCBAs with the additional guidance needed to enforce ethical supervisory practices. However, other components go into providing adequate supervision:
Direct observation is critical in assessing trainees’ strengths, weaknesses, and continuous improvement. It also allows the opportunity to provide live feedback to help trainees learn and grow. If they’re still experiencing challenges during sessions, behavior skills training and modeling go a long way. Give the trainee instructions on a skill you’d like them to perform, demonstrate it yourself, have them perform the skill, and then provide feedback. Not only does this allow trainees a more practical way to learn/ build on skills, but it also shows them that it can be done, motivating to keep trying.
Praising success is important in keeping trainees motivated and focused. Direct therapy can be draining, so it’s important to recognize staff achievement. If trainees only hear corrective feedback, that can tap into their self-esteem, leading to poorer outcomes.
Providing effective feedback is essential to the success and growth of trainees. BCBAs should assess their trainees’ current strengths, what they need to work on, and whether or not they see improvement. Prioritize the skills they’re struggling with the most and assess whether the current feedback strategy is yielding the best results. BCBAs should be open to adapting their feedback strategy depending on the trainees. If a trainee doesn’t respond well to simply being told how to improve, try involving them in the conversation. For example, “I noticed during the last session the client didn’t respond well. What do you think we can do differently next session?”
Responsible Supervision Practices
Maintaining responsible supervisory practices supports the mutual respect and professionalism BCBAs and trainees have for one another. While BCBAs and trainees will likely spend a lot of time together and develop bonds with one another, it’s important not to blend the lines between colleagues and friends. Challenges with dual relationships include difficulty in providing corrective feedback, loss of respect, perceptions of favoritism, and a decrease in professionalism. Some ideas to maintain a professional relationship include not accepting social media requests from trainees and ensuring not to vent to trainees about the job or other staff.
BCBAs are also responsible for minimizing the risk to trainees, clients, and caregivers. This includes responsible scheduling (such as not pairing high-risk clients with inexperienced staff), creating the least restrictive programs possible, and training all parties to guarantee their success.
Enhance Your Supervision Expertise
Best practices surrounding ethical supervision are continuously evolving. It’s important to stay up to date with changes to the Code of Ethics, as well as to enhance your learning through CEU opportunities. To learn more about the Ethics of Supervision, and to obtain free Supervision CEUs, visit our CEU library. To learn about how Catalyst can help with OBM data collection and streamlined supervision, schedule a personalized demo.