Ethical issue: Working too hard

This is an important ethical issue that I think doesn’t get spoken about enough. We usually discuss gift giving and exchanging therapy for other services (for example, the hypothetical situation of “my client has a garage, and will do my M.O.T for free, should I accept?”), but I have never heard this one being discussed and I think it’s important for people who are beginning their career in ABA know about.

Saying yes to extra sessions can have serious ethical implications. As a young ABA tutor, beginning my career, I was in a position when I was willing to do extra sessions and would accept extra sessions regularly.

I was collecting hours for my BCBA exams, I was saving for a mortgage and I am a nice person (I wouldn’t be a good therapist if I wasn’t). When I was asked to do extra session, I was usually very willing.

This is an ethical problem because sometimes when you begin saying yes, you find it difficult to start saying ‘No’. There can be any number of personal reasons why you feel pressured to say yes, or don’t want to say no.

But you can burn yourself out! You can become stressed, and you may spread yourself too thin. This can not only affect your health (in a number of ways, sleep difficulties, you might get sick more frequently, or worse), and it can affect your ability to provide a good quality services to your clients.

The following quotes are from the Behaviour Analysts Certification board (BACB), Ethical document, the Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behaviour Analysts.

“1.04 (c) Behavior analysts follow through on obligations, and contractual and professional commitments with high quality work and refrain from making professional commitments they cannot keep.”

You may be able to keep these commitments, or you may start falling behind if you take on too many extra sessions. Don’t let this happen to you.

“1.05 (f) Behavior analysts recognize that their personal problems and conflicts may interfere with their effectiveness. Behavior analysts refrain from providing services when their personal circumstances may compromise delivering services to the best of their abilities.”

You must be able to balance your personal life and your professional life. When you are finding it difficult to cope you must recognise this and prevent this from impacting your services. This may been cutting back on sessions until you are feeling better.

“2.09 (a) Clients have a right to effective treatment (i.e., based on the research literature and adapted to the individual client). Behavior analysts always have the obligation to advocate for and educate the client about scientifically supported, most-effective treatment procedures. Effective treatment procedures have been validated as having both long-term and short-term benefits to clients and society.”

It is the responsibility of the Behaviour Analyst to ensure the client receives effective treatment. You must first take care of yourself, this will ensure you are able to provide the best service.

Make sure you have a nice health balance between your personal and professional life. Work hard, but ensure you find time to see friends, catch up on your favourite TV series, or read a book.

If you are feeling concerned about your health, please speak to your supervisor or the families you work with. They will definitely be supportive and understanding. You may also want to speak with your GP if you have a recurring health issue.

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