by Angela Coreil, PhD

Fields Ready for Change: Notes from CalABA 2022

As I sit here today, recalling my experience of CalABA and the responses to talks, including but not limited to my own talk on unifying the sciences, it is clear that change is both needed and wanted. We find ourselves in a world where COVID has altered how we operate in our lives and in our world. We have found ourselves in the ‘Great Resignation’ of people leaving their positions and rethinking their priorities out of necessity.

I too have been on this journey. Long before 2020, I found myself embedded in a system of seemingly unworkable contingencies. This led to several years of inventing and reinventing myself and my career – and finally to freedom from the system that had held me down for a decade. It is from this perspective and with this experience that I find myself advocating for the field to be better, not because I am the right person to do so, but because I built myself a system that allows me to speak up more freely than most.

At CalABA 2022, I was able to speak at my first in-person conference since freeing myself from academia. I found myself re-invigorated by the presence, energy, and curiosity of those who attended my talk: Clinical Behavior Analysis: Unifying the Behavioral Sciences. It was inspiring to see how many people were already thinking about how to find a common language between behavior analysis and psychology and how many people were working in positions where they both needed and wanted more guidance on how to navigate the intersection between our fields.

There were a number of patterns that were evident in the responses of attendees. First, many were unaware that Clinical Behavior Analysis has existed since the 1950s. Second, the pervading thought was that additional degrees would help broach this gap – yet, those with multiple degrees broaching both fields still had the same questions. “Which hat am I operating under?”, “How do I know if I am still in scope?”, “Where does ‘ACT’ begin and end in relation to RFT and to the clinical situation I find myself in on a daily basis?” Many were struggling with how to speak to colleagues and stakeholders about the areas where our fields meet and divide. And, as I presented regarding the bubble forming as more behavior analysts enter the field and nearly all enter the Autism treatment area – there was recognition of how this affects the perception of behavior analysis, drives the narrowing of treatment programs, and ultimately will leave behavior analysts vulnerable to changes that are not under their control (e.g., changes in the DSM, etc).

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