A Conversation about Compassion in ABA with Courtney Tarbox, BCBA, and Jonathan Tarbox, BCBA-D

Courtney Tarbox, BCBA & Jonathan Tarbox, BCBA-D

Connections Behavior Planning and Intervention is excited to welcome Courtney Tarbox, BCBA, and Jonathan Tarbox, BCBA-D, for a brief webinar series for Behavior Analysts! This series will focus on the topic of Compassion in the field of Behavior Analysis. The content will be presented in three sessions. Register for the whole series from this page (discounted price) or for individual sessions via links to those sessions in the detailed descriptions below.


Ample research has shown that applied behavior analytic treatments can be highly effective for Autistic individuals, however, many in the Autistic community and throughout the Neurodiversity movement have been calling for a kinder, more compassionate approach to what we do. Thought leaders in our field (e.g., Taylor, LeBlanc, & Nosik, 2019) and caregivers of Autistic individuals have expressed concern that ABA professionals sometimes do not demonstrate the care and compassion that we feel in our hearts, in the way we interact with the families we serve. Members of the neurodiversity self-advocacy community have called on behavior analysts to acknowledge that our procedures can cause harm and have asked that we put the perspectives and values of the individuals we serve at the very front of our treatment. We believe that the field of ABA is at a critical turning point where we are confident in the effectiveness of what we do, while at the same time we have the opportunity to be open and courageous enough to take the next steps in developing a more compassionate approach. In this workshop, we provide practical strategies for infusing compassion into our everyday work as behavior analysts, across our work with the Autistic community, their caregivers, and across our own colleagues and organizations. We begin with a conceptual analysis of how empathy and compassion are part of the science of behavior analysis, and we progress to providing practical tools and approaches for leading with our hearts, while not compromising the science and effectiveness of our field.

About the Presenters

Courtney Tarbox, BCBA, is Director of Clinical Development at FirstSteps for Kids, a community-based autism service provider. Courtney earned her Master of Science Degree in Counseling, with a specialization in Applied Behavior Analysis from California State University, Los Angeles. She is passionate about contributing to research that is informed by real-life practice and is actively engaged in treatment evaluation research on topics including complex skill acquisition, naturalistic discrete trial training, compassion and kindness in ABA treatment, and the infusion of acceptance and commitment training (ACT) within comprehensive ABA programs for children with autism. Courtney currently serves on the board for the ACT Special Interest Group and has published a training manual for Registered Behavior Technicians.

Jonathan Tarbox, BCBA-D, is the Program Director of the Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis program at the University of Southern California, as well as Director of Research at FirstSteps for Kids. Dr. Tarbox is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Behavior Analysis in Practice. He has published five books on applied behavior analysis and autism treatment, is the Series Editor of the Elsevier book series Critical Specialties in Treating Autism and Other Behavioral Challenges, and an author of well over 80 peer-reviewed journal articles and chapters in scientific texts.  His research focuses on behavioral interventions for teaching complex skills to individuals with autism, applications of Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) inside of applied behavior analysis, and applications of applied behavior analysis to issues of diversity and social justice.



Session 1: Compassion as a Foundation for Behavior Analysis

Register for this single session


  • Session 1 will lay the foundation for infusing compassion in everything we do in applied behavior analysis. We begin by discussing kindness, empathy, and compassion as fundamental moral and ethical principles that span centuries, languages, and cultures. We review existing behavioral definitions of compassion and then conduct a brief conceptual analysis of empathy and compassion from a relational frame theory perspective. We discuss the many different potential functions that compassionate behavior can have for behavior analysts. We conclude with a general framework for self-reflection and perspective-taking that provide a practical tool for enhancing compassion across all activities in everyday ABA practice. This framework will then be used to provide specific practical strategies in sessions 2 and 3.

Learning Objectives (1.5 Ethics CEU’s)

  1. Attendees will be able to provide a behavioral definition of compassion
  2. Attendees will be able to describe how perspective-taking can be used to strengthen the behavioral repertoires involved in empathy and compassion
  3. Attendees will be able to describe three possible functions of compassionate behavior

Session 2: Practicing Compassion with Clients and Caregivers

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  • Session 2 will discuss compassion as a necessary moral compass to all that we do in behavior analysis. We will first reflect on how we are doing as a field and how the application of our science may or may not align with what was described in session 1. Critique and solution-oriented suggestions will be offered for general approaches and specific procedures through a lens of compassion. Topics covered will include: behavior management and the use of extinction, ongoing client assent to treatment, collaboration with individuals, caregivers, and other stakeholders, treatment goal development, and concrete social validity and quality of life measures.

Learning Objectives (1.5 CEU’s)

  1. Attendees will be able to describe specific strategies in how to root behavioral interventions in compassion
  2. Attendees will be able to describe specific strategies in how to approach collaboration with a variety of groupswith compassion


Session 3: Self-Compassion and Compassion within Organizations

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  • Session 3, the final session of the workshop, will apply what attendees have learned in sessions 1 and 2 to enhancing compassion toward our colleagues in the organizations in which we work. We are currently experiencing an epidemic of burnout in the profession of applied behavior analysis (ABA). Nothing can completely eliminate the stress that is inherent in ABA jobs but the ways in which we treat each other can make a substantial difference. In this session, we use a framework of self-reflection and perspective-taking to provide practical strategies for making our daily work interactions more compassionate. We describe strategies at the organizational level, at the level of supervising and mentoring employees, and at the level of staff training. Finally, we acknowledge that we, too, are whole human beings and we provide specific strategies behavior analysts can use to strengthen our repertoires of compassion to ourselves.

Learning Objectives (1.5 Supervision CEU’s)

  1. Attendees will be able to describe common organizational practices and contingencies that may influence us to move away from compassionate interactions at work
  2. Attendees will be able to describe specific procedures for infusing compassion into organizational culture within ABA agencies
  3. Attendees will be able to describe specific strategies for conducting training, mentoring, and supervision more compassionately
  4. Attendees will be able to describe specific self-care strategies for treating ourselves more compassionately

CEU’s included, and Cost to Attend:

  • 1.5 Learning BACB CEU’s per session (included with purchase)
  • 4.5 Learning BACB CEU’s for the series (included with purchase)
  • $29.99 to attend single session, or $84.99 for the full series
    • Includes access to the recording and presentation materials, and CEU’s.

For questions, challenges with registration, or any other needed information, please contact Dusty, Director of Continuing Education and ACE Coordinator for CBPI, LLC, at continuingeducation@connections-behavior.com.


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