Why Coaching and Support Matter (even to the most skilled therapists)

Like me, I’m sure lots of you are forming New Year resolutions. There’s lots out there about Goal Setting – using the SMART Goals formats, making sure that you have short-term and long-term goals, having goals that center around things you can control, etc… But with health and fitness goals, not many people talk about the role of professional assistance.

How many of us use the same precision in our own lives as we do in the lives of our clients? I was at a party recently where someone said, “it seems as if an outside person is needed to manage the demands of an ABA program – to put it on the families is just too much.” I thought there might be some wisdom in that statement, given all of my attempts at self-monitoring. Maybe the physician cannot, in fact, heal themselves?

I stumbled across an article by Burke, et al., (2009). In this qualitative analysis of self-monitoring for weight loss, the authors identified some of the characteristics that interfere with good data collection. Things like competing contingencies, social support and social sabotage, regular check-ins, and organizational skills all affected adherence to self-monitoring in the long term.

There are contingencies that surround data collection. Hear that, behavior analysts?

It seems that for most people, a highly structured support system with accountability is needed for long-term success. It gives more evidence to what we already know – willpower doesn’t work, accountability does. More specifically, reinforcement is critical to success. Therefore, a trainer shouldn’t be ashamed to have a trainer. A behavior analyst shouldn’t be ashamed to have a behavior analyst. Coaching is prevalent because it is effective.

A coach also keeps us from throwing spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. As I was studying for my ACE Personal Trainer exam, the presenter was talking about how to convince a potential client that training is worth the investment. He said without someone who is trained, most people just wander around the gym and try things. They don’t have a cohesive program that will lead them to their goals. It made a lot of sense. Why not talk to the experts?

I’ll drift away from health and fitness for a second to address my students – the newly minted BCBAs. Please don’t think because you passed the exam you have all the answers and you can go it alone. You will always need a village of people for support, accountability, and answers. At first, you might have a trusted mentor. After a while, a community of practice. Also, if I ever see any of you looking for mentoring for a case on Facebook, I will smite you. Got it?

Do you have any good sources of support in your work and personal life? If so, please share with us, and Happy New Year!

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