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ABA Therapy

Identifying & Alleviating Provider Burnout In ABA

The demand for Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) and Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) are currently at an all-time high. Unfortunately, for those already in the field, many have reported high levels of burnout and an excessive amount of work responsibilities.

Due to the high levels of burnout being reported, it is important that providers are aware of what burnout may look like and how to address it within ourselves and the workplace.

What Is Provider Burnout and What Does It Look Like? 

Burnout can look different depending on the level at which it’s occurring and the person experiencing it. Ultimately, though, burnout is reported as exhaustion and disengagement.

Disengagement is defined by this study by removing yourself from work activities or social opportunities and reducing one’s identification with an organization. At the same time, exhaustion can look like fatigue and a lack of mental and physical energy.

Burnout can occur for various reasons, including intensive physical, affective, or mental strains related to job demands. This may look like too many responsibilities, a need for more resources, and limited training opportunities.

Multiple research articles have identified the need to address burnout among ABA providers. In one study, a group of 826 respondents was surveyed, and 72% of this sample reported medium to high levels of burnout.

What Causes Burnout? 

Burnout in ABA has a variety of causes and can vary depending on the intensity and person experiencing it. Research has identified the following causes of burnout:

  • Being under-scheduled

  • Low pay

  • Poor supervisor support

  • Lack of training

  • Unreasonable work responsibilities and demands

How to Combat Provider Burnout

Now that we’ve identified what provider burnout is in ABA, we can find out how to avoid it. Work-life balance and engagement have been termed the functional alternative to burnout, and these skills have been directly associated with lower rates of burnout and intention to quit.

Additionally, self-care strategies and job-crafting practices can help create a healthy work-life balance and increase and sustain engagement at work. The goal is to keep all staff happy and far from burnout to avoid turnover.

How Are These Strategies Supported by Research? 

Because our field relies heavily on research, it is important that we use strategies supported by ABA literature to address burnout within ourselves and in our workplace environments.

Self-care strategies were mentioned earlier to help structure a healthy work-life balance and should focus on actions that benefit one’s health and well-being. These actions should “promote effective and appropriate use of the self in the professional role” according to a 2022 study. Some notable examples of self-care include meditation, more sleep, exercising, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in continued education or professional development.

Job crafting has been supported by research to assist with developing a healthy work-life balance. Job crafting is described as a strategy to focus on how employees change aspects of their job as a response to job demands. This strategy could be used as a self-awareness strategy or can also be used to assist with analyzing the behavior of other colleagues, trainees, or supervisees.

Additional Resources for Providers

If you are interested in some additional resources or professional development opportunities, the list below is a great start! Included are resources and CEUs that are directly related to addressing burnout.

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