Hello, hello! Let’s talk about supervision. If you’re reading this, you probably either will need supervision, are in a supervisory relationship, have received supervision, or you are a supervisor yourself. Therefore, we can all agree that this is a super important topic! For this post, I shared an anonymous survey in the Applied Behavior Analysis group on Facebook. The survey included eight questions regarding individual’s experiences with student BCBA supervision. I know that I have had good and bad supervision (so behavioral, I know ;)), and I wanted to see what other experiences folks have had, and if their pros and cons are in similar or different areas.
The questions I included in the survey were:
On a scale from 1-5, how beneficial was your supervision experience? 1 being not at all, 5 being amazing
Write 2-3 pros to your supervision experience
Write 2-3 cons to your supervision experience
How often were you in touch with your supervisor monthly?
Did you have group supervision with other students?
Did you have pre-set modules for unrestricted assignments? If yes, explain in a couple of sentences
Did you pay for supervision?
What else do you think is important for current or future students to know in regard to supervision?
I was saddened, but not surprised, by the results of this survey. Even though I only received response from 10 individuals, the majority of them were negative. I think this is a good indication of how BCBA supervision tends to go, and the importance of finding a trusting and supporting supervisor. Let’s dive into the results.
Question 1: On a scale from 1-5, how beneficial was your supervision experience? 1 being not at all, 5 being amazing
Folks ranked their supervision at an average of 3.4.
Question 2: Write 2-3 pros to your supervision experience
Supervisor had knowledge of relevant research articles. The supervisor used gradual release model
Clearly outlined expectations, teaching skills in a way that was effective for me
International leader in ABA, 40+ years of experience in IDD, established the first BACB approved course sequence program in Canada, traveled to Africa, India, China and Indonesia to assist with establishing similar programs
Meeting other professionals, having a specific person to go for help
Hands-on experience with behavior skills training, emphasis on functional behavior assessments, including FAs, training on developing programs and writing treatment plans
Review of concepts, help with ideas and support with writing papers
Second supervisor had great organization and documentation that displayed my progress and learning needs
Lots of FA experience, lots of staff training experience, new student intake experience,
Honest with my progress, challenging my thought process
Question 3: Write 2-3 cons to your supervision experience
Too many to count. Supervisors expect you to kiss up to them to get hours.
Didn’t get to practice decision making for live functional analyses, scheduling client observations was difficult within our schedules and roles.
Would have benefited from role playing more challenging situations, needed more support with programming (a self-identified area of deficit after becoming a BCBA)
Not as culturally diverse of a population for consumers, as supervision was provided in a small city.
Supervisors were not good, rarely available, supervisors always focused on their clients, not necessarily my clients who I needed help with, no supervisor has given me credit for all of my hours, they decided to decline hours to make me pay more for my supervision.
Not enough training in ethics, not enough training in parent/caregiver training, no training in interdisciplinary collaboration.
Not enough support, not consistently available
Unable to do as much as we hoped since in a school setting, visible judgment of school dynamic.
No experience writing treatment plans or attending IEPs, no parent training experience.
All via telehealth, difficulty finding an ideal time to schedule for all parties involved.
Question 4: How often were you in touch with your supervisor monthly?
Question 5: Did you have group supervision with other students?
70% of individuals said yes, they received group supervision with other students, 30% said they did not
Question 6: Did you have pre-set modules for unrestricted assignments? If yes, explain in a couple of sentences
Only two participants responded with more information.
Yes, we had modules/videos to review before group supervision and had to answer questions as well.
Readings and tasks assigned based on levels the company decided on. We went through the Task List and the supervisor assigned readings and expected us to thoroughly discuss and write about each subject before moving on from an area of the Task List.
Question 7: Did you pay for supervision?
90% of the individuals said no, they did not pay for supervision, 10% said yes, they did.
Question 8: What else do you think is important for current or future students to know in regard to supervision?
I would love for paid supervision to be cheaper and more accessible.
You will get out of it what you put into it.
Be sure to review the BACB website for supervision requirements, and review these with your supervisor.
Try to have multiple supervisors in different settings, populations, and sectors to expand skill set.
Make sure you pick your supervisor carefully. There is nothing more frustrating than signing a contract and having a BCBA give you poor support, spotty communication, and then refuse to sign your paperwork.
Find a well-established, experienced BCBA. Find a BCBA who is not afraid to model procedures in the moment with clients, especially for behavior reduction.
Be very mindful of who can supervise and make sure they are available. Hands on is best
Get as much experience as possible and make sure you get a variety of different opportunities
It is your experience and you have to guide it in a way that works for you. Do not expect your supervisor to pull all of the weight.
Wow!! So much beneficial information. While there were a couple participants who wrote that they had positive experiences and that their supervisors were well-established and supportive, many had the opposite experience. From what I can tell, the biggest problems student face included feeling under prepared for “real” BCBA responsibilities like assessments and collaboration, not feeling supported by their supervisor, and not feeling like they had enough variation in BCBA supervision. Several responses included not having enough practice with programming and assessments. Another problem is that students felt as if their supervisors did not make time for them, and they were not supported well enough. Supervisors have a ton going on, but students should be at least one of their priorities, especially given how under prepared they are feeling once being launched into the field. Not properly supervising students does a disservice to the field, at the end of the day.
This is such good content for new and seasoned students and supervisors! I hope that this information can guide students in the right direction, and help them understand that these issues are ones that many others face, and that there may be a better supervisor out there for them. I also hope it can direct supervisors to pay attention to where their students feel under supported and experienced.
As always, please comment or reach out to me to further discuss fun topics like this one!
My name is Alice Okamoto. I am almost done my graduate program, and I am working through my student hours. I live in North Carolina with my boyfriend and two dogs, with whom I love to do anything outdoors, although the heat index has shown 108 degrees every day, so it has been difficult! We love going hanging on the boat, seeing friends, and enjoying adult beverages.
@alice.camilla on Instagram