Our Professional Responsibility
By: Abby Twyman | December 18, 2019
As professionals who are responsible for providing effective treatment to those we serve, it's incumbent upon us to ensure there are no factors in our own personal lives that could negatively impact our ability to "do good therapy". This not only applies to Behavior Analysts (BCBA), but also to psychologists, educators, speech therapists (SLP) and occupational therapists (OT).
When I had the opportunity to teach professional ethics at Arizona State University (ASU), one of the first lessons I taught was on the overlapping nature of our ethical codes across professions. Given that we often collaborate when working with clients, understanding our responsibilities to ourselves and our individual professions provides us with an important perspective and facilitates more effective teamwork. In each of our ethical codes, there is a clearly stated responsibility to ourselves in relation to the provision of services.
- For BCBAs: The Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts, guideline 1.05F, states that "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."
- For Psychologists: The Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, Principle A, states that "Psychologists strive to be aware of the possible effect of their own physical and mental health on their ability to help those with whom they work."
- For Educators: The AAE Code of Ethics for Educators, Principle II-2, states that "The professional educator maintains sound mental health, physical stamina, and social prudence necessary to perform the duties of any professional assignment."
- For SLPs: The ASHA Code of Ethics, Principle of Ethics I-R, states that "Individuals whose professional practice is adversely affected by substance abuse, addiction, or other health-related conditions are impaired practitioners and shall seek professional assistance and, where appropriate, withdraw from the affected areas of practice."
- For OTs: Occupational Therapy Code of Ethics, Nonmaleficence C/D, states they must "Recognize and take appropriate action to remedy personal problems and limitations that might cause harm to recipients of service, colleagues, students, research participants, or others, and Avoid any undue influences that may impair practice and compromise the ability to safely and competently provide occupational therapy services, education, or research."
It is critically important that we engage in a deeply personal self-assessment to identify our own barriers to success and develop interventions to apply to our own behavioral excesses and deficits. This is the power of behavioral science. Not only is it applicable to the individuals we serve... it is the science of behavior and learning of ALL living organisms which means that it can help us learn how to better help ourselves reach our fullest potentials as humans. This includes our personal, professional, social, and family lives.