I am going to have a distance supervision meeting with one of my supervisees from Europe today. Despite my initial hesitation to start providing distance supervision services, I thoroughly enjoy working within this model and I also find it very effective.
Distance supervision-yes or no?
Within the last 2 years, I have been providing distance supervision to supervisees from different parts of Europe. It has been an amazing experience to find out about all the wonderful work my supervisees do in their countries to support dissemination. I was hesitant at first to begin offering distance supervision services. I was not familiar back then with the possible platforms to use for distance supervision. I also did not trust that video observations can be as effective as live sessions. I was also reluctant to take responsibility for people whom I do not meet on a regular basis. I also thought that there might be cultural differences that might make working together impossible.
However, when one of my friends who is a fantastic BCBA and a role model in many ways for me, started offering distance supervision services, I began to consider the possibility again. I started looking for articles in the literature, looked through websites offering distance supervision, looked around in ABA forums on social media, and found out that there are actually great platforms and methods to use to make it effective. I was also thinking, there might be people in similar situations as we are in Hungary: there are literally no BCBAs to get supervision from, or, even if there are a few, they are incredibly busy. So, I have put together a short advert and started advertising my services on social media.
How does it work?
I have to say that this model works perfectly in terms of observations-you can either do live or recorded video observations (be careful though, an asynchronous observation does not count as a contact!). You can provide feedback in various ways: oral feedback via video call or a phone call, written feedback, recorded video feedback, you can embed oral feedback in videos, or you can even watch the video together with your supervisee online and provide oral feedback then.
You can also organize online group supervision meetings for your supervisees to network, practice presenting skills and share experiences with others.
Challenges involved in online supervision
As all types of delivering supervision, long distance supervision has its own challenges. One of the main difficulties I have been facing is trying to fit everything in into meetings. The Board requires 5% of supervision as a minimum. This in most cases means that supervisees will aim to get 5% and not more. This is understandable based on the fact that they do independent fieldwork, which means they have to pay for supervision themselves. I found that having a written agenda for meetings can help. Adding group supervision sessions is also helpful as these have a reduced price.
Another challenge is lacking the element of modelling from the Behavioral Skills Training model. However, supervisors can video themselves demonstrating the procedures. I have started to incorporate them in supervision as well, and it is working, even if it is just role play. There are procedures that I can demonstrate with my 1-year-old son, such as pairing myself and the teaching environment with positive reinforcement, using prompts and prompt fading techniques, teaching manding, imitation or instruction following.
But again, the most reinforcing component within distance supervision for me as a supervisor is meeting people from all around the world with the same goals and passion as myself. Despite the challenges they are facing on a daily basis, they do not give up. I am incredibly proud of them all!
Garza, K. L., McGee, H. M., Schenk, Y. A., & Wiskirchen, R. R. (2018). Some tools for carrying out a proposed process for supervising experience hours for aspiring Board Certified Behavior Analysts®. Behavior analysis in practice, 11(1), 62-70.
Fronapfel, B. H., & Demchak, M. (2020). School’s Out for COVID-19: 50 Ways BCBA Trainees in Special Education Settings Can Accrue Independent Fieldwork Experience Hours During the Pandemic. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 1.