College of Education and Behavioral Sciences Leadership, Policy, and Developmental: Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Education Leadership
University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
Although other therapeutic approaches across human service disciplines have acknowledged the importance of understanding the impacts of trauma, the field of behavior analysis has seen less frequent discussions. To address this growing need, the purpose of this study was to explore how three participant board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs): (a) define trauma-informed behavior analysts (TIBA), (b) use TIBA to guide their decisions for identifying appropriate interventions, (c) determine appropriate evidence-based interventions for students with a history of trauma, and (d) obtained their training to confidently implement TIBA in their practices. Using a comparative case study, the participants provided information about their approaches through an interview as well as by providing a copy of their resumes and a redacted behavior intervention plan (BIP). Commonalities and differences among the participants’ uses of behavior analytic practices are identified and discussed. Through a cross-case analysis, the results of the study demonstrated important practices in behavior analysis which include: (a) developing a therapeutic relationship with both the client and their caregivers, (b) training for generalization, (c) identifying meaningful reinforcement contingencies, (d) teaching social and self-management skills, (e) implementing antecedent strategies, and (f) limiting or avoiding punishment and extinction. The implications for practice resulting from this study identified important elements to incorporate into a BIP. In conjunction with providing an operational definition of the targeted behaviors, BIPs that are trauma-informed should also describe personal and medical histories which may impact a student’s behavior (for example, if the behavior is more likely to occur as the result of a medication or if the client has any psychiatric or neurological conditions). In addition, the BIP should provide antecedent interventions, skills to be taught, and appropriate reactive strategies that reduce the risk of retraumatization. Next, implications of evidence-based practices were discussed. Although a list of evidence-based practices utilized by the participants was described, the study looked beyond what behavior analytic research says and provided details on what the participants have determined to be effective and ineffective. For example, although it is identified to be an evidence-based practice, all three participants described how extinction of a behavior can not only lead to retraumatization but can actually do more harm than good. Furthermore, the study addressed the question on whether the field should expand its practices beyond interventions deemed effective based upon single-subject designs such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Lastly, the paper discussed ways to expand upon the research provided in this study. For instance, this study consisted of three BCBAs who use a trauma-informed approach within their practices. This number limits the number of experiences and resources BCBAs within the field have found to be effective in behavior change procedures. To gather more perspectives and experiences, the paper identified using a survey method of research. In addition, the paper suggested conducting a phenomenological study gathering the perspectives of parents or caregivers who have had experiences working with BCBAs who utilize a trauma-informed approach and those who do not. This would add to the social validity of TIBA with the hope to ignite a desire for change within the field. Finally, this study added to the limited body of literature on trauma-informed practices within the field of behavior analysis. Because the concept of using a trauma lens within the field is a relatively new concept, it is critical to explore the perceptions and experiences of BCBAs within the field.
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