The Behavior Analyst Certification Board or BACB is a non-profit corporation that started in 1998 to certify professional behavior analysts. Its core mission is to protect consumers of behavior-analytic services through standard practices that involve creating, distributing, and promoting professional standards of practice in the industry.
The BCAB is also responsible for creating and distributing the code of ethics for BCBAs and BCaBAs. Their first guidelines, published in 2001, were quite instrumental in establishing the baseline for the responsible conduct of behavior analysts. The guidelines were revised a couple of times but will ultimately be replaced when the next version of the guidelines was published.
The second and current code of ethics by the BACB is titled The Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts. The current document is cumulative but refined standards and guidelines to which professional behavior analysts refer today. As a part of their ongoing review of all certification requirements, BACN periodically reviews and updates its ethics code. NCCA, their accrediting organization, mandates the process.
The New Code of Ethics for Behavior Analysts
The BACB was inspired to create the current project with a new code of ethics to make them more organized, readable, and enforceable. The corporation also decided that the new standards should outline and describe the underlying principles that are the foundation of the code. Ultimately, the new codes are meant to improve client protection in the best ways they can.
The BACB announced a new set of requirements for applicants seeking certification as a part of their process to improve the code and adapt it to societal and time changes. The new code changes have been in development as early as 2018. They have been finely refined and tested before the announcement.
What Influenced the New Code of Ethics?
The BACB involves a large number of stakeholders in their ethics code update mission. The process often involves collecting feedback from individuals and organizations, keeping track of and filtering ideas, and making possible revisions before it is adopted. Dr. Tyra Sellers, who was a part of the team that created the new codes, says that the new code of ethics was greatly influenced by feedback from two sources:
1. Stakeholders in the Industry
These are the people that apply the code of ethics on a day-to-day basis in their practice. They are the professionals who have to deal with all the problematic situations the code is designed to address.
2. Other Professional Codes
The BACB scrutinized the scope and contents of the code of ethics from other related professions and leveraged their strengths to develop the new code of ethics. They primarily focused on how the content was structured and how the codes evolved over time to respond to and reflect the needs of its professionals.
Highlights of the New Code of Ethics
The new code of ethics for behavioral analysts has been in development, and it gathered input from a broad selection of experts, individuals, and stakeholders. The BACB also included SMEs and intellectuals in the creation of the new code of ethics. Here is a summary of what to expect in the new code of ethics document for behavioral analysts:
New Codes, New Document Title
The title of the new document has been updated from ‘The Code of Ethics for BCBAs and BCaBAs’ to ‘The Ethics Code for Behavior Analysts’. This will take effect on January 1, 2022. The new title is more concise, less wordy, and evergreen. The code document defines, upfront, which behavioral analysts the code covers and what they should expect.
The introduction section of the document is much longer and goes in-depth to frame the code document and spotlight what the reader will find inside. There is also a section on the introduction that defines the scope of the code to reinforce to whom the code applies and the kinds of behaviors the code covers.
You can learn more about the new document, and the current version here.
The Core Principles Section
This is a brief section introducing the code of ethics for behavioral analysts that names and describes the four core principles that guide the rest of the code. These are essentially aspirational points to which all professional behavioral analysts must adhere. They are:
- Behaving with integrity;
- Benefiting others;
- Ensuring competence; and
- Treating others with compassion, dignity, and respect.
Right below the core principles section, the code of ethics covers the application of the code. It summarizes how the code of ethics applies, how people should interact with it, and how professionals can adapt it to their practice. Additionally, the introduction section also covers the process of ethical decision-making and aims to help users when faced with an ethical dilemma.
Sections of the New Ethics Standards
The new ethics code for behavior analysts is a much leaner and trimmed version of the current version of the document. The current ethics standards comprise 169 elements categorized into ten sections, while the new one is made up of 85 elements fitted into six categories. These sections are:
- Responsibilities of the behavior analyst as a professional.
- Responsibilities in behavior analysis practice
- Responsibility to stakeholders and clients
- Responsibility to supervisees and trainees
- Responsibility in public statements
- Responsibility in research
The BACB has made incredible improvements in the behavioral analyst ethics standards, most of which included structural changes, rewording of items, removing old items, and adding new ones.
Section 1: Responsibilities of a Professional Behavior Analyst
The first section of the new code of ethics provides the overall expectations that are defined in greater detail in the subsequent standards. The most notable standard code, 1.07, focuses on cultural responsiveness and diversity.
This is a new standard not in the current code of ethics that was added to clarify that behavior analysts have a responsibility to actively take part in development activities related to culture and diversity. It goes deeper to guide analysts on identifying and evaluating their own biases and abilities and those of their trainees and supervisees. BACB added this section to help the professionals better cater to people from diverse backgrounds.
This standard has been significantly revised to accommodate the views and feedback from all the stakeholders. Still, on section 1, a new item 1.12 that covers giving and receiving gifts is a new addition to the code of ethics. This item clarifies that gift exchange is acceptable, but with a limitation that the monetary value of the gift is $10 or less. The standard also explains conditions under which gifting might be problematic and should be avoided.
Section 2: Responsibility and Practice
The second section of the new code of ethics for behavior analysts is all about the responsibilities of the professional during practice. Like the first section, the second section is mainly made up of overall responsibilities and standards that are further defined in subsequent sections of the code.
The most notable standard in this section is 2.08, which covers communication services. This standard has been revised to improve consumer protection by requiring professional behavior analysts to ensure that they understand the information before they communicate it to clients, stakeholders, trainees, supervisees, or research participants.
Section 3: Responsibility to Clients and Stakeholders
In this section, the standards describe the responsibilities of certified behavior analysts to clients and stakeholders in their practice. Quite a few changes have been made to this section, but the most notable are the sections that talk about third-party contractors and the practitioner’s responsibility towards them.
There have also been significant improvements made to the standards that address:
- Continuity of service
- Discontinuation of service
- Transitioning of service
These three standards have been spun out and updated with information that a behavior analyst should share with clients and stakeholders. It also goes on to detail the steps the analyst can take when approaching each of these circumstances.
Section 4: Responsibility to Supervisees and Trainees
As the title hints, this section covers the responsibilities that an analyst has to the individuals they supervise or train. While this code section exists in the current document, there have been monumental changes to its parts. The section has been expanded to cover the importance of providing high-quality, ethical supervision and what constitutes the right training practice.
Standard 2.4.03, for instance, addresses supervisory volume. This section has been revised to cover more considerations that will help behavior analysts to accurately evaluate their supervisory capacity. Standard 4.07 ‘Incorporating and Addressing Diversity’ is new and focuses on helping a behavior analyst to set the right expectations and ensuring all the topics related to diversity are included in their training and supervision.
Section 5: Responsibility and Public Statements
The fifth section of the new code of ethics for behavior analysts focuses on how the professional uses social media or makes public statements. Most standards in this section are new but highly invaluable to practicing behavior analysts. Standard 5.03, titled ‘Public Statements by Behavior Analysts,’ describes the language that a professional behavior analyst can use and what advice they must never give or imply in any public forum.
Section 6: Responsibility and Research
This is the last section of the code of ethics for behavior analysts. It outlines the responsibilities of the professional when carrying out research. This is an important section that exists in the current code of ethics, but with many changes, most of them clarifications.
The most notable standards in this section are 6.03 ‘Research and Service Delivery’, which clarifies the analyst’s requirements to effectively conduct research within a service provision context. Standard 6.04, ‘Informed Consent in Research’, has been revised to cover the researcher’s expectations when analyzing existing and new data.
As the BACB rolls out the new code of ethics for behavioral analysts, all stakeholders must go through the document and understand how the changes will affect their practice or services.
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This post is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be used in lieu of practitioners’ own due diligence, state and federal regulations, and funders’ policies.