The Days are Better when we Stick Together: A Plea for Collaboration

Author: Shane Spiker, MS, BCBA  & PhD Candidate 

Author: Shane Spiker, MS, BCBA  & PhD Candidate 

The spirit of the Next Gen Revolution Summit is one of collaboration. Part behavioral science, part entrepreneurship, the purpose is to blur the line between fields and show the impressive power of applied work with collaborative elements. This simple, constructive, and underutilized show of collaboration is an important demonstration of behavior science paired with established fields of practice.

In a time where behavior analytic practice is one of many applied sciences and behavior change modalities, we may often find ourselves isolated to an extent. What I mean here is that as scientist-practitioners, we spend much time sunk into our practice and work, relentlessly reviewing literature and applying our work to a variety of needs. We dig into our science passionately and probably display that passion in disproportionate or unsavory ways, prompting challenges to our collaborative practice

Now, this is not every behavior analytic practitioner, and it would be irresponsible to claim that much. Personally, I welcome collaboration in my daily work. Ongoing feedback from those in the field and outside perspectives of behavior change technologies help me refine my own skill and provide a more comprehensive treatment model for individuals I actively serve.

However, many of us working in behavior change sciences hear criticisms of our field and colleagues regularly. There are constant tropes like “they were cold” or “they just seemed so clinical.” But there is also the criticism that we don’t play well with others. We might do ourselves well to recognize that this is an important and potentially damaging criticism of our practice that we could course correct.

Stop. Collaborate.

Here’s the thing; to collaborate we have to recognize that behavioral sciences are not a singular solution. It’s shocking sometimes to hear that other people in the field (or any field for that matter) act as if a single modality is the solution for any given problem. We’ve should begin by actively recognizing that any given modality is a single portion of the larger picture. Hell, behavior analysts have to rule out medical conditions before practice. We’ve got collaborative medicine inherently built into our ethical and professional code.

Let’s take a second to look at our treatment packages as well. Typically, they are a combination of environmental arrangements riddled with proactive and management strategies. Some include crisis interventions. Others include descriptions of different outside interventions that include (but aren’t limited to) educational programs and/or pharmacological elements. If we take a look at behavior analytic practice at its core, the very design of practice includes components and parameters of treatment to work collaboratively. This is something we tend to be ok with without much comment, as we should be.

On a larger scale, we tend to have more concerns with “outsiders” and how they may interrupt our treatment packages. Sure, we tend to be more parsimonious than some other practices. Evidence based practices are able to throw their weight around a bit. But let’s take a second and recognize that the field of Psychology is often considered a soft science despite having quite a wealth of research and well-established theory behind it. Business, technology, medicine, and education all have similar bodies of work, with extensive peer-reviewed studies and replications that back regular applications. The point here is that we aren’t the only ones, and that matters in practice.


Ultimately, the problem is not that we fail to recognize other fields. We do this regularly when we refer to speech pathologists or occupational therapists for some additional support. But when it comes to recommendations, we might struggle a bit. What do we do when we get recommendations that contradict our own analysis? How often do we scoff at a recommendation that isn’t behavior analytic? I would beg the question; why aren’t we hearing these recommendations and taking them seriously? At what point did we decide that, definitely, behavior analytic work is better than any other practice? I’d argue that at some point, it’s worth taking a moment and problem solving how our perspectives could meet.

..When We Stick Together

There is something to be said about this idea of collaborative work. Ideas coming together to help solve a bigger challenge. Those are circumstances in which we are able to achieve bigger accomplishments. To simply write off a singular perspective may be detrimental to reaching these achievements, and may ultimately impact the collective intervention package. A lack of collaborative effort may also serve to damage the global perspective on behavior analytic practice.

So, let’s take a page from the Next Gen group. Let’s start putting our heads together and pushing the envelope of behavior science. We do great on our own, but we do so much better when we stick together.