Behaviour Therapy in action

At the first ever Behaviour Therapy week at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores), the team of behavioural therapists from across the hospital showcased how they used ABA techniques in their areas of specialty.

Kelsey Bond, Jodi Brooker, Shawn Carter, Joanna Holley and Andrea Penhale all gave spirited reports to the packed room for the Grand Rounds presentation.  ABA or Applied Behaviour Analysis is the systematic application of principles to change socially significant behaviour to a meaningful degree.   The behaviour identified for change or to be adapted should be objective, observable and measurable.

The most common functions of behaviour were identified as either to get attention, to get a tangible result, escape a situation or for sensory reinforcement.   For example, the behaviour of clicking a pen on and off while having a conversation could be done to either get the listener’s attention,  to wake up a sleeping student, escape from a boring conversation or provide sensory relief from liking the way the pen feels.

In order for the team to start the ABA process of changing behaviour, they first need a base measurement of the action.  This is usually received through indirect assessment, talking with the persons and or family members; and direct assessment, where the behaviour is observed and the frequency, duration and rate are closely monitored.

ABA strategies are often used in the Neuropsychiatry services such as patients with Huntington’s disease and acquired brain injuries, to change behaviour such as agitation, aggression and resistance to care.  Strategies used include establishing and promoting routines, removing triggers, developing personalized schedules and creating prompting methods.

In the case of Autism, ABA strategies are often used to assist in communication and helping the patient function in a setting where social skills are a necessity.  In this case, visual cues are often used.

There are also behaviour therapists who work with the community to provide outpatient care, as well as work with long term care facilities to develop person-centred behavioural interventions and promote behavioural health.

In behaviour therapy, improvements will not happen immediately and some inappropriate behaviors may never go completely away.  Every effort is made to reduce these negative behaviours or adopt positive ones.

All persons involved in the care of someone with behavioural issues can assist by helping with data collection, reinforcement and consistency.