Recent publications in behavior analysis have turned towards a renewed focus on compassionate care in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). This focus on compassionate care is a testament to ABA’s origins, and BE’s own mission, to make socially meaningful changes in the lives of children and families. While many may confuse empathy with compassion, they are not the same. An empathetic person can put themselves in “the shoes of another” and feel their feelings, but often takes no steps towards resolution. A compassionate person not only displays empathy, but then takes action to relieve the suffering they see in another. Compassionate care in ABA identifies the problems and concerns and then takes steps to collaboratively alleviate those problems through developing trusting and reciprocal relationships between provider and client.
Compassionate care in ABA may start with the client’s initial intake call with a client services representative and follows through to their individual assessment with a BCBA. During the individual assessment, an attentive and compassionate clinician can collaborate with caregivers to make programming and goal choices based on the caregiver’s capacity, personal recommendations, feedback, and clinician’s observations and clinical assessments. As compassion starts with action, program goals and choices should reflect priorities of health and safety to the family as well as improvement in family living conditions and the family’s overall emotional health. Taking a moment to truly listen to a caregiver’s true challenges and daily concerns, their wants and needs, helps guide a compassionate practice as it then elicits programming goals that provide socially meaningful changes in the client and caregiver’s lives.
Compassionate care encompasses communication with caregivers. Effective communication, in language that is easy to understand and void of clinical jargon, translated to the caregiver’s preferred language, and presented in a way that removes an essence of expertise or authority is at its core compassionate. Further, program and staffing changes should be conveyed to caregivers early in the process to ensure clear communication and facilitate a discussion of concerns or risks.
Compassionate care in ABA is not new to the field nor is it new to Butterfly Effects. It is a reminder that our responsibility as clinicians is to seek opportunities to always be improving the lives of children and families through every aspect of our treatment. It is a commitment to our mission as a company, and to each of our clients, that each client is unique and only through collaboration and compassion can significant change be made.