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A Brief History of Uncomfortable BCBA

The spring of 2017 was a time of protests, rallies, and marches seemingly every weekend in the United States. At a state conference that April, Megan Sullivan Kirby and Barbara Kaminski shared similar feelings and frustrations about the opinion held by some in our behavior analytic community that participation in these democratic events by a credentialed person could be construed as reflecting badly on the profession. These individuals stated that participation in protests, rallies, and marches would or could affect client confidence/trust in professional services. So, Megan and Barb agreed to seriously follow up and consider their initial shared musing, “Why should being a BCBA limit our activism?

Fast forward a couple of months and the conversation had broadened. Arielle Mabry was brought into the mix to initiate conversation about situations where staff need support: the RBT who feels uncomfortable working in a client home because they display symbols that the broader society labels offensive (e.g., a swastika), or the BCBA who is asked to engage with a caregiver who makes outright racist, sexist, homophobic, or other offensive statements to staff.

A few conversations commenced, to include an intense June 2017 afternoon where the shell of a website was published and the endeavor was named “Uncomfortable BCBA.” The Facebook group page launched and members trickled in. In March 2018, there were about 800 members of the group and we had discussions about a wide variety of topics that made us “uncomfortable.” Events at the annual CalABA conference that month sent the member numbers through the roof, as this was identified as a “safe” place to have respectable conversation about what happened there. The number of members continues to grow, with new member requests literally every day.

Uncomfortable BCBA was represented at several conferences and workshops in 2018, speaking on the need for diversity in practice and across the ranks of certificants, as well as championing the need for cultural competency training for behaviorists. Uncomfortable BCBA has bought and mailed stickers with handwritten notes to hundreds of members. The future of this platform is open-ended, but the need for diversity, compassion, and advocacy within the field and in society at large is clear given feedback from members thus far.

Uncomfortable BCBA is a platform for behavior analysts to discuss a wide variety of issues. Regardless of the day-to-day topics of commenting or the pinned blog post, the heart and soul of Uncomfortable BCBA is to encourage our fellow behavior analysts to play a role in positive societal change. That often means taking positions that others will disagree with. But positive change for our profession, our clients, and for society at large can come with a price – being uncomfortable. Thank you for being uncomfortable with us. We hope you find community and permission to advocate for social justice, human and civil rights, and a better society for us all.


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