How to Prevent BCBA Burnout

It’s usually around this time of year when I feel like the days and weeks are too long.  Maybe it’s the long stretch of work/school with no real break until summer.  Maybe it’s the itch for the weather to get nicer so we can enjoy more outdoors time.  Or maybe it’s just plain, old burnout.

Burnout is not a situation to take lightly.  We spend so much of our day consumed with helping others, often with little or no thanks.  While we know that our work is appreciated on some level, we don’t always get the positive feedback we need.  We try to put our heart and soul into our clients and our work, recognizing that most of our clients are also struggling with their own challenges.  If you’re a clinic owner, then hopefully you spend time mentoring and acknowledging your RBT’s and therapists but then who gives you that “Thank you” once in a while?

If you’ve ever had that ‘ugh’ feeling when you think about work, here are some tips that work to get us out of our funk.  Hopefully it’ll work for you too!

Take Care of Yourself

Do things that you enjoy outside of work.  Sometimes it feels like work is all we’re doing and we know that sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day.  Sometimes I find myself waking up at 5am to respond to emails! But remember – the emails will be there later!  It will get done!  Take time for yourself, do what you enjoy doing and what you like.  Exercise, take a spa day, get your nails done, or even take a long walk by yourself.  It’s important to tap into what recharges you – whether that’s being in nature, with friends, or spending time alone – and do it as often as you need to fill yourself up.

Set Limits

Your time is your time.  Set limits with your clients as to when you’re available.  Don’t get into the habit of checking emails around the clock and make sure your clients know when you’ll be responding to emails.  Set a time when you’re receiving phone calls.  We only take calls until 6pm and weekends are set aside for family time.  We need to have a life outside of work in order to rest.  If you spend too much time letting people take from your bucket, your bucket won’t be full enough to give back to your clients and your families.

Be Realistic with What You Can Do

We all juggle lots of balls in the air at any time.  No one is “just a BCBA”, we are also parents, friends, siblings, spouses, children, etc. We have lots of other commitments.  Be realistic about what you can deliver, Know what your limits are and know when to say “no”.  I learned that the hard way by saying “yes” to a client that I really wanted to help but I didn’t really feel comfortable taking it on.  The family was desperate so I agreed.  These kind of situations usually cause the most amount of stress and feelings of incompetence.  If we can do better at recognizing what we’re good at and what we’re not good at and then being comfortable at saying “no”, then it would decrease a lot of stress.

Know What Your Triggers Are

We always talk with our students about self-regulation and calming techniques, we need to recognize this in ourselves as well.  Learn to recognize what your triggers are so that when you feel overwhelmed, you can stop what you’re doing and calm yourself down.  Even if you’re in a situation with a client or a difficult situation with a parent or a therapist, excuse yourself and go to the bathroom.  We are often in stressful situations and it’s important to know yourself and that it’s okay to excuse yourself for a break instead of doing something you might regret.

Access Reinforcement

We talk about reinforcement for our students, but what about us?  Everyone is motivated by something different and there are different reasons that brought us into this field.  I got into this field because I love to play with kids.  Now that I run a centre, I don’t get to play with kids very often.  Often, I’ll walk into a session and kick the therapist out of the chair so that I can play with a student!  Make sure you’re accessing reinforcement on a regular basis to remind you why you’re doing what you’re doing.  There are so many parts of our job that we do because we have to, not because we want to.  Sometimes I find myself at the end of the day realizing that “I didn’t do any ABA today” because I was managing people, or putting out fires, or meeting new parents, etc.  This isn’t what I signed up for!  When you start to feel like that, make sure that you get in touch with what you DO like about the field!

Burnout is something that we should talk about more. We talk about mental health with everyone else, but we forget to talk about it amongst ourselves.  We have to be conscious of keeping us from that brink. 

Let’s open the conversation. What works to keep you from burnout?? 

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2 thoughts on “How to Prevent BCBA Burnout

  • All of the information is needed as I embark on my ABA journey.
    I love children and concerned very much about their social and emotional journey through life. Also, I’m a grandmother of thirteen and three have behavior issues. Working in the behavior health field has its challenges as well and my effectiveness is vital to me . The part that stuck with me the most from the video presentation was knowing myself and triggers. Thanks lady’s for your video and thanks for listening.

    • Hi Alvena! Wow – thirteen! Having to manage behaviours in your work and personal life can be overwhelming (trust me – I do it too!). Glad to hear you’re learning to care for yourself as well!

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