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Cultural Competency Training Requirements for Behavior Analysts

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June 9, 2020

Re: Open Letter to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB)
Dear BACB Leadership Team,
This letter was prompted by your recent public statement on June 4, 2020 regarding the ongoing social justice issues and systemic racism in the United States. This is a very difficult period for our country, and I was proud to see the BACB publicly state that the organization condemns racism and discrimination and is committed to diversity and equality. As an entity that credentials individuals to work in the human services field with diverse populations, a commitment to diversity and equality is essential. However, I was disappointed to see the BACB write that the organization cannot speak or represent our discipline as a whole, and I think this comment curtails the BACB’s commitment to diversity and equality.
As I write to you today, I want to encourage your organization to act. As the certification board of behavior analysts, you curate the education requirements, supervision requirements, and continuing education requirements for certificants. You can speak on behalf of our field that we do not tolerate racism and discrimination. In addition, you have the power to make sweeping changes across our discipline that can affect racism and discrimination in behavior analysis. The American Psychological Association (2008), the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2017), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (Britton, 2004) have task forces on diversity, training requirements, policy statements, and/or guidelines with respect to serving diverse populations, but we, the field of behavior analysis, have not adopted a formal set of guidelines. Training on cultural competence is key to training behavior analysts on how to effectively work with individuals from diverse backgrounds (e.g., race, nationality, socioeconomic status, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.). Culture interacts with all steps of the assessment and treatment process. Culture impacts the goals we select, the types of treatments we suggest, and thus may impact not only the relationship between the client and behavior analyst but the acceptance and implementation of procedures. Cultural competence training is currently not required in the 5th edition task list and perhaps not surprisingly, 82% of certificants reported little to no training on cultural competence in their behavior analytic coursework; however, 88% agreed that training on cultural competence was very or extremely important (Beaulieu, Addington, & Almeida, 2019).
In addition, demographic data on certificants is not publicly available (BACB, personal communication, March 15, 2018). Yet, such data could help identify whether our field is representative of the population because it is critical to have practitioners that represent the population being served. Understanding the demographics of our field is valuable in assessing the diversity in our field, which could facilitate outreach and mentorship to enhance diversity, especially if there are differences across levels (RBT versus BCBA).
I write to urge the BACB leadership to implement two changes to their practice:
1)    Convene a diverse task force designed to develop and adopt guidelines on working with individuals from diverse backgrounds (similar to the guidelines proposed in Fong and Tanaka, 2013), and add cultural competence task list items in future versions of the Task List as well as continuing education requirements. This would require universities to incorporate cultural diversity training in their coursework requirements and behavior analysts to maintain and extend their knowledge after certification.

2)    Release the demographic data on all certificants that have self-reported demographic information when they took the certification exam or have self-reported via the BACB gateway (RBT, BCaBA, BCBA, BCBA-D).
I understand these suggestions involve quite a bit of work (particularly number 1) and although I am writing to you today with two critical suggestions, I would also like to convey that I truly appreciate the immense work of the BACB. This letter is simply a means to push the field a bit further as I feel it is sorely needed in this area, and the time to act is now. Our field needs cultural competence and diversity training. Our practitioners need to do better in this area, and we need your help to get us there. I sincerely hope the BACB will strongly consider these two suggestions.
Best regards,
Lauren Beaulieu, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA
American Psychological Association . Report of the task force on the implementation of the multicultural guidelines. Washington, DC: Author; 2008. 
American Psychological Association . 2015 survey of psychology health service providers. Washington, DC: Author; 2016.  

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2017). Issues in ethics: Cultural and linguistic competence. Retrieved from

Beaulieu, L., Addington, J., & Almeida, D. (2019). Behavior analysts’ training and practices regarding cultural diversity: The case for culturally competent care. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 12(3), 557-575.
Fong E. H., Tanaka S. (2013) Multicultural alliance of behavior analysis standards for cultural competence in behavior analysis. International Journal of Behavior Consultation and Therapy, 8(2), 17–19. doi: 10.1037/h0100970

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