MAGIKO SYMPAN LOADING . . .
Magiko Sympan
Research and Intervention Centre for Children, Adolescents and Family
Dr Katerina Dounavi, BCBA-D
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Burnout among professionals working in the field of Applied Behaviour Analysis

Working in an educational setting brings a great deal of satisfaction and feelings of accomplishments to passionate professionals. In the sector of special needs, behaviour analysts have the opportunity to produce meaningful changes in their students lives and observe how they become more independent, included in the society and ultimately happier.

Apart from satisfaction with such a meaningful job being high, the quality of the educational programme itself also relies heavily on the preparedness and skilful execution of tasks by professionals. It is widely accepted that a good grasp of theoretical principles together with a skilful implementation of tasks and a well-designed supervision by a BCBA/BCBA-D form the perfect mix for a highly effective Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) programme.

Unfortunately, sometimes certain conditions can decrease job satisfaction, increase the risk of suffering burnout and lead to absenteeism, high turnover and a poor ABA provision. These conditions include among others unrealistic demands, low resources, repeated conflict with co-workers or supervisors and work with clients who present aggressive behaviours. Younger employees who lack a social support network and work longer hours seem to be at a higher risk for suffering the effects of burnout. Of course, together with the employee who suffers, so does the service recipient and their family, co-workers and the educational institution.

Among educationalists, ABA professionals, especially those working in home environments, might be at a higher risk of suffering burnout. In a recent study we conducted, we examined burnout rates and job satisfaction levels and confirmed that about two in every three suffer from moderate to high burnout and experience low to little job satisfaction. These findings are alarming given the quality of service provision relies heavily on professionals.

In our attempt to define how to prevent burnout and low job satisfaction, safeguard employee and client wellbeing and optimise ABA-based programmes, we identified a number of strategies. For ABA therapists and students including Registered Behavior Technicians, frequent supervision is key together with social support from co-workers. BCBAs and BCaBAs also benefit from a social support network in the work setting. This social support network includes several team members, certified professionals, frequent and positive interactions within teams and a training culture. Having these strategies in mind allows us to build a strong team of professionals who continuously develop while supporting each other and who are able to offer the best educational experience to their students.

If you wish to read our full study on burnout and job satisfaction among ABA professionals, click here.