Getting Personal About Antecedent Interventions

Smiling young woman drinking a coffee in her home office

While preparing to take my BCBA exam last summer, I knew I reached the point where I was studying too much when I discovered I had a favorite concept, antecedent interventions. My love of this concept began during my coursework when my professor instilled in us the importance of incorporating antecedent strategies when writing behavior intervention plans.  Oftentimes, simple antecedent manipulations to the environment can provide significant change to a behavior before reactive and consequential strategies are implemented.  Furthermore, I enjoy the concept of antecedent interventions when it is related to real life situations.  

Now that it is Fall, which means a new season and several chaotic changes to my schedule, I have been thinking about different antecedent interventions I have been incorporating in my daily life.  For example, during days when I am supervising sessions via telehealth, there are many strategies I use in order to decrease interruptions from my dog, Parker.  I quickly learned that it is very important that Parker receives a quick walk and a treat before my Zoom call starts.  This antecedent intervention helps tire her out and satiates her hunger.  As a result, I get to sit through the telehealth session or Zoom meeting without constant cameos from Parker.

Another one of my most preferred antecedent interventions, while working home, is to make sure my workplace is decluttered.  I know from experience that I am not productive when I have a lot of distractions.  There have been many occasions when I stopped writing a report mid-sentence because I need to organize a large stack of papers in front of me.  Not only does cleaning and tidying up help limit the distractions in my environment, but it also produces behavior momentum.  Once I have begun the process of clearing clutter and organizing my materials, the actual work task I set out to do, does not seem as hard and I am more willing to get the task done.

In the beginning of the summer, when I started going back to my clients in person, I realized the most effective antecedent intervention for me is caffeine.  When I was in quarantine, I took for granted how delicious coffee can be when you do not have to to brew it yourself.  I always knew my caffeine addiction was real, but when I was unable to get a daily dose of Dunkin, I learned about the struggle of deprivation.  Naturally, when I started seeing my clients in person again, I began to choose to have the professionals brew my coffee for me again.  During this time, I also discovered a Dunkin Iced Coffee with a swirl of caramel is my ultimate antecedent intervention.  Getting back into the groove of commuting to work and seeing clients in person was a struggle.  I now find that I am able to change my mindset and build up behavioral momentum if I allow myself this treat before a session.  Not only does the caffeine give me a necessary energy boost, but the smooth taste of the icy deliciousness and caramel swirl gives me the sense that I can deal with the challenging aspects of my job!  Also, if I go through the process of dealing with the drive thru line, I have completed the first steps of a high probability request sequence and can surely manage delivering some DTT when I am with my client.


By Alicia Marshall MAT, BCBA

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