Picture the worst that could happen.
Can you even imagine it?
And if you’re a seasoned therapist or behavior analyst, how do you communicate about this with your students and supervisees, who almost certainly can’t really go there?
If you’re like many of us, you don’t know what you don’t know. Suppose a client wants to gift your staff a gourmet coffee gift card, or a mother wants to step out quickly to get her dry cleaning. “It’s a five minute drive, I’ll just be a second”, she calls, as you work with her child in an upstairs therapy room. “No problem”, you start to call… but your ethics bone starts to tingle. Surely you’re over-reacting. What, if anything, could go wrong?
When the worst case scenario relates to our vulnerable clients affected by trauma, the consequences may be even more dire– and yet, those who haven’t faced the possibilities may not recognize the dangers.
Should I accept this client in foster care with severe challenging behavior and a history of abuse although I have never treated similar cases? Should my agency supervise our new BCBA to take on a new trauma case (we have funding, after all) when we haven’t experienced this situation?
For those of us tasked with supervising and teaching others, or working with families, we can help students, supervisors or parents picture the worst case scenarios so they can better prepare for, predict, and prevent dangerous outcomes. The Compliance code helps give guidance and rules that we follow, but for those of us who have NOT encountered situations that make us keenly aware of the reasons for these, some of the code items may seem “nit-picky” or unreasonable, and may be disregarded in a dangerous way.
To support our own cases and our supervisees where it counts, we must have a wealth of experience, stellar training that exposed us to a variety of worst case outcomes and possibilities and some solutions, or a great imagination- and a few good teaching and documentation tools.
I get a new wake up call every semester I teach ethics students about the origins of Behavior Analysis’ Ethics Code, which was spurred in part by atrocious, life changing and widespread abuses by those doing “behavior modification” in recent decades.
When I ask “what do you think? Could those things ever happen here?”, Continue reading