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Compassionate Care in Behavior Analytic Treatment: Can Outcomes be Enhanced by Attending to Relationships with Caregivers?


The practice of behavior analysis has become a booming industry with growth to over 30,000 Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) who primarily work with children with autism and their families. Most of these BCBAs are relatively novice and have likely been trained in graduate programs that focus primarily on conceptual and technical skills. Successfully working with families of children with autism, however, requires critical interpersonal skills, as well as technical skills. As practitioners strive to respond efficiently and compassionately to distressed families of children with autism, technical skills must be balanced with fluency in relationship-building skills that strengthen the commitment to treatment. The current article provides an outline of important therapeutic relationship skills that should inform the repertoire of any practicing behavior analyst, strategies to cultivate and enhance those skills, and discussion of the potential effects of relationship variables on treatment outcomes.

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Correspondence to Bridget A. Taylor.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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The participants in the survey were not identifiable and provided consent by completing the survey.

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The opinions expressed in this article are not an official position of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. The training materials for “Establishing and Maintaining Therapeutic Relationships With Families” were developed as part of the clinical standards initiative at Trumpet Behavioral Health, with the assistance of Catherine Miltenberger and Kristen Cooper. The training information on “Communicating With Parents: Active and Empathic Listening” was developed as part of Alpine Learning Group’s core competency training program.

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Taylor, B.A., LeBlanc, L.A. & Nosik, M.R. Compassionate Care in Behavior Analytic Treatment: Can Outcomes be Enhanced by Attending to Relationships with Caregivers?. Behav Analysis Practice 12, 654–666 (2019).

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