Three Ways to Avoid “BCBA Burnout”

Friday, November 15, 2019

People may joke in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) about wearing multiple hats, but this could not be more accurate.

The ABA community often requires behavior analysts and clinicians to play multiple roles in order for their teams to function. For example, a senior Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) typically takes on an administrative role within a company (often out of necessity) pulling them in several different directions and spreading them very thin.

They could be writing an initial assessment report one minute, being called in for behavior support with a client the next, and then dealing with the cancellation of one of their therapists that causes the entire schedule of the day to change. It is tough to accurately define “a day in the life of an ABA Therapist,” due to the constant change — and this can eventually lead to burnout

Burnout is very real in the ABA field, as well as in many other social services and client care industries. As behavior analysts, the work that we do for our clients may be stressful, time-consuming, and exhausting, but in the end, we do it for an important reason; to give those who do not have a voice the ability to live richer, more independent lives.

Burnout can come in many different forms. There can be therapists who are mentally exhausted that simply cannot handle the problems that their clients are facing as well as their own. Or ones who are physically exhausted, not taking care of their own health, and are constantly falling ill as a result. Unfortunately, it is all so real and we see it far too often in the ABA community, mainly because of one big reason: clinicians value helping others over their own self care.

It is so important to take care of yourself in this field or you may be subject to “BCBA burnout.” Take mental breaks, find solutions that will simplify your workload, and find the ability to hand out tasks when needed.

Here are a few tips that can help you curb the daily stresses that come with working in a constantly shifting, yet critically important industry:

Self-care: any activity or behavior you do to take care of yourself (physical, mental, and emotional). Yes, you!! Take care of yourself first! What good are we to help others if we cannot help and take care of ourselves? We bring less value to the table if we cannot be the best versions of ourselves when working with any population. Self-care does not have to be anything major, but it can be little things that you do for yourself: enjoying your lunch away from your computer, treating yourself kindly, taking a quick walk in between clients, listening to music while writing a report, or as simple as finishing a hot cup of coffee instead of hastily running out the door to get to work. These are all things that will take commitment and persistence, just like the programs you write for our clients. But if we are practicing self-care we are engaging in a behavior that will recharge us, and give us the opportunity to help others more effectively.

Mindfulness: this has to be one of the most important things to keep in mind as a practicing BCBA. Mindfulness means paying attention to the moment-to-moment experience with presence and compassion.

  • There is a repeated saying: “Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” (Viktor E. Frankl) In our digital world, it is more important today than any other, that we learn to respond rather than react. We have to slow down, and take that time between the stimulus and response and think about what that response should look like instead of just reacting and saying something we may not have put a lot of thought into.
  • The ability to manage our stress and anxiety especially when working with clients or even managing Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) or other clinicians is to become aware of it and make it a priority. In order to make changes, we know that we have to be aware of that behavior. Prioritizing this management will make us the best versions of ourselves which then is most valuable to our clients.

Time Management: is the ability to plan and control how someone spends the hours in a day to effectively accomplish their goals (psychologytoday.com). As BCBA’s, we definitely wear multiple hats — making time management crucial for our ability to be successful and for our clients’ learning progress. We are in a world of technology, where it can hurt us or help us. In this case, CentralReach provides solutions for BCBAs so they can manage their time and practice with cutting-edge solutions including precision teaching, clinical data collection, scheduling, billing, learning management, fully digital evidence-based programming and more. CentralReach can help manage your time more effectively and simplify your practice’s processes through an end-to-end solution, and thus, helps to alleviate the daily stresses of working with your clients on a daily basis.

As Board Certified Behavior Analysts, we face so many different challenges on a daily basis in the ABA field, but nothing compared to the challenges our clients face. If we can make that just a little easier for them it was all worth it. We can ensure we do this for them by following these helpful tips in order to avoid burnout in the ABA field.

About the Author

Amanda Eberhardt, M.S. ABA, BCBA

CentralReach Sales Engineer

Amanda Eberhardt is one of CentralReach’s Sales Engineers and BCBA. She received her undergraduate in Psychology with a focus in Research from William Peace University in Raleigh, NC, and her Masters degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from Kaplan University. She has been a BCBA for nearly 3 years and has been actively working in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis since 2011, working directly with children on the autism spectrum. She has also worked in both clinical and home settings; during those times, Amanda was an active CentralReach user.