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  • Anne Hedelius

THERAPEUTIC CONSULTATION: What To Expect

Updated: May 24, 2019

THERAPEUTIC CONSULTATION: What to Expect

Here are some helpful tips that will help you understand how to collaborate, consult, or communicate with a Behavior Analyst. THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT’s love to sing the praises of Behavior Analysis, so if you have questions just ask us!

▪ What the heck is a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT, anyway? – Probably the #1 question of professionals who do not work in the field of ABA. A Therapeutic Consultant is a professional who has gone through extensive and regimented coursework (either at the Masters or Doctorate level), supervised clinical experience, and passed a comprehensive exam. THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANTs are also required to regularly participate in conferences or other training opportunities to stay abreast of current best practices. A Therapeutic Consultant is the person to contact if you are needing help in behavior/behavior change, which is a broad topic covering animal behavior, criminology, education/teaching, business/management, weight loss, smoking, language, and on and on and on.

▪ We are all different- If your 11-year-old is flunking school, getting in fights, and oppositional, can a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT help with this? Yes. Can any old THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT help with this? No. Think of how doctors have specialties of practice, such as a pediatrician. Would you go to a pediatrician if you needed hip surgery? Not likely. In the same way, each THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT will have unique experiences, clinical strengths, and areas of expertise. If you need help training your dog, you need a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT who has animal behavior expertise. If you need help increasing your productivity at work, you need a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT who has business/self-management expertise. THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANTs are not one-size-fits-all.

▪ We focus on the environment to understand and analyze behavior- THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANTs primarily seek to understand and treat behavior by examining what happens around the individual who exhibits the behavior. This may include looking at what happens before or after the behavior, directly observing the behavior, or interviewing people who have directly observed the behavior. THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANTs do not believe feelings and emotions don’t exist; that is a myth. Rather, we seek to objectively and operationally examine feelings or emotions, so we can come up with something clear and discrete to measure. For example, if 3 teachers do not agree on what “sad” means then how can they measure when Johnny is sad? They cannot. First, a concrete and clear behavior must be selected before anything can be measured.

▪ We have a unique language, BUT we are required to be bi-lingual- Contingencies, Verbal Behavior, Intervention plan, Extinction, Functionally Equivalent.... if you have spent any time with a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT you have likely heard some odd words tossed around. These words can be very intimidating or confusing when you first hear them. THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANTs have a clinical language all their own, with a vast vocabulary. Here is the good news: the THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT can, and is expected to, explain things to you in a way that is understandable. This means you should expect the THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT to put down the jargon and pick up plain speech. Do not hesitate to stop the THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT and ask, “What does that mean/Can you explain that simply?”. All THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANTs are automatically bi-lingual, because we do speak “ABA”, but we also must be able to communicate plainly.

▪ Arrogance and condescension are not guaranteed- If you’ve had a previous negative experience with a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT, this may have been why. Like any profession, there are some THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANTs who have less.... bedside manner, then others. This is an unfortunate reality. What it is NOT, is something to expect. A quality THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT will be bi-lingual (see above tip), knowledgeable, professional, and respectful. Arrogance is not a requirement to be a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT, it is more of an unfortunate quality that some do possess.

▪ We are not “Autism people”- This may be the top myth about THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANTs: that we are only helpful when it comes to working with individuals with Autism or some form of Developmental Disability. This could not be falser. Worldwide, THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANTs can and do work in a variety of settings, with all kinds of people (and animals), performing all kinds of clinical duties. Yes, THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANTs can be extremely helpful in designing treatment for individuals with Autism. But our education, clinical training, and supervision experiences qualify us to do far more than treat Autism.

▪ We need precise and objective information to help you (translation: DATA)- If you have interacted with a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT before, you may have noticed we tend to answer questions with questions. Example: Question) “What do I do about my 4-year- old who won’t sleep in his bed?”, Answer) “Do you mean fall asleep in his own bed, nap in his own bed, or stay in his own bed through the night?”. This is not unusual and should be expected. THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANTs are behavior scientists. For this reason, we cannot make treatment recommendations with minimal or absent data. We need to know what is going on, how long it has been going on, the function or motivation of the problem behavior, and what has already been tried, to help you. Imprecise or inaccurate data is almost as useless to us as no data. If the answers to our questions are “Umm, I think so”, “Sometimes”, or “Yes.... well except when--”, then you can guarantee we will need more data to be of help.

▪ Our ethical code is intense- Really intense. Which is quite intentional, for the protection of the consumer. If you’ve had previous negative experiences with a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT, what you may not realize is they were simply following their ethical guidelines. Sometimes families get upset with me because I won’t stay for dinner after a therapy session, transport their child in my car, accept a Christmas gift, etc. Yet to do any of those things would be unethical on my part. The THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT is not intentionally trying to be cold, distant, or rude, it is simply that we are responsible for practicing according to our ethical guidelines. If you are unfamiliar with what a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT can and cannot do, I highly recommend you visit www.BACB.com to read the ethical boundaries for the field of ABA. This information is freely available to the public.

▪ We are in high demand and can work autonomously if we choose to- You may have already found that what one THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT charges, while others charge twice as much. Or in one state THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANTs are all over the place, yet in another state it’s like trying to find a unicorn. Or maybe in your local area you can’t even get a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT to respond to your emails. Why is that? Well, the need for THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANTs is quite daunting, and is ever increasing, as more and more agencies/organizations realize how helpful we can be. This means for consumers or other professionals, it can be difficult to locate a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT who 1) has availability, 2) works within the expertise you need, and 3) is affordable. Becoming a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT is a long and arduous road and unfortunately, we just cannot churn more THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANTs out fast enough to keep up with the demand.

▪ Who can do what a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT can do? - So glad you asked, because it’s important to know when to call in the Calvary (translated: your local THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT). According to the State of Idaho, Department of Health & Welfare, a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT is ethically and professionally qualified to:

- Measure behavior/Operationally define behavior/Create systems to measure behavior;

- Design interventions/Create systems of experimental design/Graph, analyze, and manipulate the variables that impact behavior;

- Ethically create systems of behavior change based on current best practices;

-Analyze systems of behavior change according to what research supports/Critically evaluate the effectiveness of interventions or behavior change systems;

- Assess behavior, environments, components of intervention;

-Critically analyze methods of assessment - Manage, train, and/or supervise ABA professionals (certified/credentialed or otherwise) based on effective, competency-based practice and

- Practice within ethical guidelines, and in accordance to the philosophical beliefs of Behavior Analysis

If you are not a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT in Idaho, or working under the close, ongoing, and frequent supervision of a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT, then you should not be performing any of the tasks listed above. The best and most qualified person to perform these tasks would be a THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT.

▪ We want you to understand behavior too! - The most important thing for you to know about THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANTs is that we want you to understand what we do, and how it impacts the individuals we serve. For any given client I may work with, it is typical they have a team of professionals around them. For example, 2-4 teachers, an IEP team, a private Occupational Therapist, a nanny, and a soccer coach. It only helps me in my role if these other professionals have at least a basic understanding of what I do, and of the client’s treatment plan. So not only is it ok if they ask me questions, I love when that happens! Asking me questions about treatment, behavior, or systems of behavior change, shows me that the professional wants to understand. Many people want to learn more about ABA but are intimidated by some of the resources available to do so (journals, conferences, etc.). The best way to learn more about ABA is to start talking with the THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANTs you already know.

Signed,

Your Friendly Neighborhood THERAPEUTIC CONSULTANT 😊

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