26 Mar Behavior Services Make A Difference
by Lonya Thompson, LCSW, Manager of Behavior Services
What does a Behavior Consultant do, and how does their work impact the lives of the clients here at New Hope?
This is question that often come up during the initial meeting with clients, parents, and sometimes even from direct support professionals (DSPs). In order to get a better understanding of what Behavior Consultants do and how their work impacts the life of the clients, it may be helpful to first gain some background information about the Behavior Consultant’s role.
Each Behavior Consultant at New Hope of Indiana is required to have at minimum a Master’s degree in psychology, social work, counseling, special education or a similar area. The Behavior Consultants are trained to use applied behavior analysis and positive behavioral interventions to assist the individuals we serve. The main role of a Behavior Consultant is to help clients to stop or decrease maladaptive behaviors and in turn learn socially acceptable replacement behaviors. Simply put, Behavior Consultants teach clients who are trying to meet their needs using ineffective or inappropriate behaviors to instead learn to use more appropriate behaviors to meet their needs.
Behavior Consultants not only work with clients to help them learn appropriate behaviors; they also help clients to understand their rights. Clients sometimes don’t even know what rights they have or how to advocate for their rights. Behavior Consultants are sometimes the first individual to teach the clients about their rights, and how to successfully advocate for their rights. One could say that Behavior Consultants are like the liaisons of a client’s rights. They advocate for the client’s rights, but at the same time they are also held with the responsibility of presenting rights restrictions to the Human Rights Committee when needed. There are times when the rights of an individual may have to be restricted in order to keep the individual and others around them safe. Behavior Consultants go through great lengths to try and avoid restrictions for clients at New Hope, however sometimes this is just not possible. Behavior Consultants have a responsibility to make sure that the team does everything possible to preserve the rights of the clients and never puts in place restrictions that are unnecessary for clients.
Another liaison role that Behavior Consultants have is their role between the psychiatrist, psychologist, team members and the clients. Behavior Consultants work with various clients at New Hope who have one or more disabilities that include neurological impairment, intellectual/developmental and/or physical disabilities. Some clients experience intense difficulty with emotional distress, unhealthy learned emotional responses and unhealthy habits, and they cannot make appropriate changes with their behavior without a pharmaceutical intervention. The Behavior Consultant keeps the doctors up to date on the client’s progress or lack of progress with their target behaviors. They communicate any behavioral concerns that the team may have to the doctors. This information can assist the psychiatrist with deciding on the best course of medication treatment for the client. This can in turn help the client with managing symptoms that contribute to unwanted negative behaviors and help them live their best life.
Behavior Consultants also work with the team supporting the individual to fully understand how best to support them. Behavior Consultants do this by developing a Behavior Support Plan. This plan is a guideline that is used to assist everyone on the team with using the same information for addressing the client’s behaviors. Behavior Support Plans can be a great tool to use but everyone must be on the same page with using the plan. It takes the whole team working together to successfully reduce or stop unwanted behaviors. Behavior Consultants rely heavily on the caregivers, associates and the whole team to implement the plan and to provide feedback and data regarding the target behaviors in the plan.
When Behavior Consultants can get the whole team invested in using the behavior plan and providing the feedback and data collection (that is very much needed), there becomes this win-win situation that has a domino effect for all individuals who are a part of the client’s life. The client will ultimately change when negative behaviors are reduced or stopped. This will then help to create an enriched environment for both the client and those around them. When this occurs, it creates a significant impact in the client’s life. It gives them the opportunity to live their best life, to be healthy, happy and able to function, and to connect to their fullest potential with their family, friends, peers and community. Ultimately this is what Behavior Consultants strive to accomplish for each client at New Hope. They sincerely want to make a positive difference in the life of the individuals that they serve, and this is the impact that they strive to create each and every day for every client at New Hope.
I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Nelson Mandela that sums up the philosophy of the Behavior Services team:
What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.