Thought Leaders 008 | Dr. Linda LeBlanc | Part 2

Thought Leaders, we are sitting down and speaking with Dr. Linda LeBlanc and asking. her the tough questions - Where does she see the field going and/or Where does she want to see the field go?

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Shauna Costello (00:00):

You're listening to operant innovations, a podcast brought to you by ABA technologies this month on thought leaders. We're back with Dr. Linda Leblanc as she answers the questions, where does she see the field going, or where does she want to see the field go? I mean, that kind of goes into where we're going next, is the big loaded question that I've had to add, you know, that slash in between of where do you see the field going and or where do you want the field to go?

Dr. Linda Leblanc (00:35):

Well, that's, um, that's a big question. That's a loaded question. Um, I, um, will answer it based on my, my many hats. Um, one of which is currently as JABA editor, which is a temporary hat that gets passed along to the next, uh, amazing leader in our field. Um, uh, another is, you know, as a senior behavior analyst in the field and another is as a citizen of a pretty global world today. Um, as a citizen of that global world, I really do hope that, um, the field of, um, behavior analysis and behavioral psychology continues to find ways to, um, positively influence other domains and other disciplines. And, um, and I think the way that we do that is to make sure that we really teach people about, um, not only the power of dissemination and influence, but the skills to be able to thrive and be happy in non behavior analytic environments.

Dr. Linda Leblanc (02:16):

Um, and when I started in this field, like the notion that you were going to be a professor in a behavior analytic program was like, yeah, that was like, you know, 10 people have that job and they ain't giving them up. And so you generally expected to be the behavioral professor in a diverse, um, psychology department and, and those skills to be able to value and learn from and translate the interests and findings from, from other aspects of whether it's, you know, psychology, biology, whatever it is. Um, you had to have those, and I think they are, they are important, really important skills. And I think that we, I hope our field continues or maybe re-accepts the responsibility to teach our graduate students, not only, um, establish the values of, um, respect for other disciplines and other theoretical orientations that those folks are as convinced of their rightness as we are, which doesn't make either one of us right. It just makes us convinced. Um, but also the skills to be able to, um, interact collegialy and responsibly and responsively, um, with those other disciplines so that we do have that influence on all the other aspects of the world, whether it's on the, um, TSA organization aspects of the federal government. I, I, for a long time, tried to convince people interested in behavioral gerontology, like, don't go get your PhD get your master's degree in behavior analysis, and then go get a degree in nursing home administration, because that is how you change the environments of all the older adults that are kind of served within those communities.

Dr. Linda Leblanc (04:46):

So I do as a, as a citizen, hope that we continue to pursue that outreach and dissemination and, and, um, blend in to the wallpaper become the fabric of effective society to the greatest extent that we can. Um, as a second hat of a person who has spent a life committed, or at least a career, uh, committed to enhancing the lives of people with various kinds of disabilities and special needs. I absolutely hope that that continues. You know, that's been the mission and purpose for me in all of my endeavors, um, is that there aren't people who know they need us or know they need something who have no options. And I think in terms of how the field is evolving, we're in a crazy time right now, there are more of us than there have ever been. Um, and certainly more organizations then there have ever been, but there is still this desperate need in underserved communities. And, um, that kind of breaks my heart. You know, if you live in rural America, like I grew up in rural small town America, um, you are likely in more dire straights and, or as dire as it's ever been. And, you know, I think now a person looking for a job in behavior analysis has so many options. They can choose where they want to live. Um, you know, nothing against the places I've lived.

Dr. Linda Leblanc (06:58):

I would not have chosen Baltimore, Maryland, um, and Kalamazoo, Michigan and Auburn, Alabama you know? Different people might choose those, but those wouldn't have been the places where I chose to invest, uh, years of my life. Um, it was just that those were where meaningful and powerful career opportunities existed. And I think now people don't have to go for those, you know, uh, other variables can influence very heavily where they live and you know, what that means is, okay, kids in rural New Mexico or Southern Utah, or, you know, um, far West Virginia, you're in the same boat as you ever were, and it's not a great boat. And so I really hope that, um, there is a greater embracing of things like delivery of telehealth services and many thanks to people like Dave Wacker and Dorothy Lierman who have been, you know, and Wayne Fisher had been doing research on how to get, you know, particularly the supervisory knowledge and expertise to kids that are in areas where a behavior analyst is just not likely to want to move.

Dr. Linda Leblanc (08:37):

But I also, what I would love to see, I don't know how we're going to do this, but would be some version of a, um, you know, what, teach for America, where as a behavior analyst, your first two years out of school, if you commit to go to an underserved community, you get maybe some student loan forgiveness, or, or what have you. We actually developed a program, um, or continue to develop a program that Jim Johnson had set up, um, at Auburn, you know, it does mean that our least experienced professionals are in those underserved communities, but that's okay. As long as we're doing a good job, training them out of the gate, I'd love to see something like that happen. And I do think that those kinds of programs help to establish the mission of, it's not just about you and where you want to have that job. It's about building your community and experiencing new things and, um, and giving right, and, and really being part of that, uh, being a citizen as well as a professional and recognizing that the career is a long stretch and that it's okay to give a couple of years of that to exploring new things. So those are some of the places, um, let me let you respond to those. And then I'll put my job, uh, hat on.

Shauna Costello (10:12):

Awesome. I was going to say, just in response to that last part, working in, you know, the underserved communities, I was lucky enough to work in Flint for a year. And a lot of these communities are begging for these services, and it's not even so much, you're going into these underserved communities. You know, like you're not pitying them. You're not this, you're not that you actually ended up getting so much more experience in a more diverse, tightened, more diverse types of experiences, because there's so much more there that needs to be done.

Dr. Linda Leblanc (10:45):


Shauna Costello (10:45):

So, Instead of going to this huge metropolitan area where everything is already set, and you have to stay within your lane and do just like this, do exactly what you're supposed to do. You have an opportunity to potentially set up these amazing programs. And yeah, I mean, I learned some of, some of the best stuff from working with populations that, you know, I might not have ever worked with because, you know, I grew up, I grew up in a small town, small white Christian reformed that like, this is what you, you marry your high school, sweetheart. You have kids at 19 and you just keep that cycle going. And I always knew I didn't want to stay here. And I knew I wanted to get out there. And so when my parents heard us moving to Detroit, my mom was like, you're white. It's still a thing even to this day. And honestly, Detroit's one of my favorite cities ever. So,

Dr. Linda Leblanc (11:44):

The world is big. Um, even our country is big. You don't even have to go international to see an amazing amount of diversity. And I do think in, even though I wouldn't have chosen all the places that I've lived, I learned so much from, you know, living and practicing in, uh, on the East coast, on the West coast and the Midwest in the South now in the mountain West and seeing, um, how diverse and beautiful and amazing, and yet really similar, so many parts of our country are. And so I do hope that that is something that evolves. And I think that notion of getting out and seeing something different, I don't know that I would have done it. If the environment had not placed constraints on me, such that I needed to in order to have career options.

Dr. Linda Leblanc (12:51):

I do think there are so many, like people behave as a function of, you know, their environment and, and what's available to them. I bet you just knocked your socks off with that revelation, but, but I think we have to think about it that way. Right now, there are strong and immediate contingencies and higher salaries to, to, um, to do what an organization wants to hire you to do. And unless we create some infrastructure and will for there to be other options, nobody's going to think, well, how do I arrange that someone will pay me student loan forgiveness by moving to rural Nebraska? Or what have you? It's like, well, we have to create that if we're, if we want it to happen.

Shauna Costello (13:55):

Some of us have been trained extensively in setting up these types of processes.

Dr. Linda Leblanc (14:00):

That's right. And my guess is my guess is it will take some kind of a, a consortium, um, and, and funding mechanisms, right? Some creative grant getter and systems builders and field leaders are going to partner together. I hope once they hear this podcast and have the idea. Yeah. Well, let me tell you a little bit about, um, about what I think, um, from a, the perspective of our, our research, um, base, um, we are chock full of research and interesting thing has happened. We have far more, um, PhD producing programs than we've ever had before and far more master's programs, um, that are being run by very capable researchers who are producing research, uh, with their master's degree students, as well as their PhD students. And so we have a lot of submissions, you know, um, there was a point at which JABA was really was one of the only behavioral journals.

Dr. Linda Leblanc (15:19):

It was also behavioral interventions and there were disability journals, but now there are several other flourishing payroll journals and JABA still getting a ton of submissions. I mean, a ton of them, lots of good work coming in. And if you've seen the recent issue of JABA, you can see a lot of it is, is being published as being done. So we are healthy with respect to, um, the volume of research that's being published. I, um, do still see that, um, and I think this happens in any field where certain areas of research becomes somewhat trendy, and we really see the research move in that direction, full force where we study study study, and maybe even over study, um, some areas and have a relative under study, um, of other areas. Um, I also think that, um, we sometimes have researchers become enamored of maybe a methodology or what have you, an idea more be that because they like it then, because it's clear that, um, powerful, good is done in the world either for our scientific community or our, you know, uh, client, consumer community.

Dr. Linda Leblanc (17:05):

So I think some of that happens and I think it's one of the reasons why I wrote my recent editorial on the power of, um, big ideas, because I think, um, those big ideas are often grounded in a thing we need to know or a thing that we need to evolve in our field, um, rather than smaller ideas, which may be an appealing line of research, but can be a little more micro analysis in nature. And it's not that we shouldn't have those because those micro analyses often, um, give us the answers of things that stumped us before,

Dr. Linda Leblanc (18:02):

But also having those big idea papers that can shape how we think and, and our, our ability to zoom out, so to speak and see that, you know, global impact of our field and the, the evolution of multiple lines of research and how they connect in order to tie to something meaningful for, um, society and our scientific community, those papers we need because, uh, and we need to create contingencies, they, because they help us, but we need to create contingencies that support the risk associated with developing those kinds of papers. Cause they're hard to write. They really require a big brain and a big, uh, zoomed out 10,000 or maybe a hundred thousand foot view. And, um, and that is not necessarily what people are trained to do. It's something that evolves over time as you reach that level of proficiency and expertise, and you you've seen so many different things in the field yet, you know, that tight little study with the great methodology and the fantastic IOA that's, you know, easier to do and to write up and maybe less, um, putting your heart on the line, so to speak when you write that paper and submit it.

Dr. Linda Leblanc (19:49):

And so, um, I do think that in terms of where our field is going, it is a function of the contingencies that are shaping our field right now. And so part of what I mentioned about, um, us needing to have behavior analysts operate, uh, citizens, we have to teach them to do so and establish it as powerfully reinforcing to do so, which means professors talking about how awesome that is similarly, um, you know, those kinds of like, let's get people out into underserved communities. We have to create contingencies and value for doing that instead of other things. And similarly, if we want big idea papers, if we want something, a little riskier and edgier and bigger picture, we want people arguing about how higher education in behavior analysis needs to change. We have to create a community that will say I can be a listener.

Dr. Linda Leblanc (20:58):

The bar is still high because it's JABA, but I can be a listener that will give you a shot. Um, SD reinforcement is available, as long as the behavior is the right one. And, um, so I think that, um, it's looking good out there. We have lots of opportunity to evolve the field in the right direction, and I never buy the explanation that the field's evolving somehow independent of our behavior. It may be evolving due to the contingencies that people besides us are putting into place, but the right response to that is I'm going to bring my own contingencies and my own MOs and my own SDs and, um, and, and maybe foster some positive evolution, um, in a way that's consistent with my values.

Shauna Costello (21:59):

Yeah. And I love that. And I love that you brought it from, you know, a few of your different, the different hats that you wear because in a lot of what you're saying, you know, has been said before to buy a few of the other interviews that we've had on here. And you're right. It's the contingencies it's, I mean, we're behavior analysts we've been taught this or should have been taught this, but it's one of those things that, yeah, we have, we have this power to create these different environments with these different contingencies and, you know, Hey, we got to try it because yeah. You might be set in where you're at and doing really well. And it's going to be scary to deviate from that and start this whole new thing potentially that could fail, fail. But that, I mean, we have to keep trying. Yeah. So that means that, I mean, we could quote Skinner on failing and trying, but,

Dr. Linda Leblanc (22:58):

Well, and the reason people keep trying is when it is clear, there will be reinforcement available. It may take significantly more lever presses, but, you know, um, as long as it's clear that it's a lean schedule rather than extinction, we ought to get some behavior. Um, as long as, you know, there are some other MOs, there are some relevant, um, motivating operations.

Shauna Costello (23:32):

Yeah. And I'm, I mean, I'm excited to see where the field's going, especially in this time of, you know, podcasts and YouTube and this and that. And so many more people are exposed to so many different aspects of behavior analysis and where it can go and what it can do. And I know, you know, you and I talked off of this about kind of my stuff and it was so cool to hear how you responded to me. And you're like, Oh, that's great. Go, go somewhere else. So it was, it makes, you know what I mean, it always reassures me that I'm like, okay, cool. I'm not going crazy here. Um, so no, that's wonderful.

Dr. Linda Leblanc (24:12):

Well, and I think it speaks to, um, the value of having professional network connections with people who are in a position to mentor. Theoretically anyone's in a position to mentor, but, you know, it's correlational, not causational, but the longer you've been around often the more you've seen and the more your perspective has evolved, and perhaps the more observations you've made about conditions associated with success or failure. And so that notion of having a professional network of, you know, being willing to reach out to people, but also having people who are willing to respond to those reach outs and maybe offer a little bit of some of that discerned wisdom, if you have any, uh, you know, that's how we nurture those evolve, you know, that next generation and next generation. And it's also how we establish nurturing of the next generation as a valuable thing. And explicitly doing that and talking about, you know, it was powerfully, uh, influential to have a mentor you established for me, you know, you might like working with little kids directly more, but think about the good you can do by teaching others and nurturing others and helping them build their career. And so that act of establishing, nurturing others as a valuable thing to do, those are how we establish the values of our field.

Dr. Linda Leblanc (26:15):

You said we could look back at Skinner. Yes. You know, part of how we operated was according to those values of making the world a better place, you know, perhaps moving towards a more functional, certainly Sidman, you know, advocating, moving away from coercive practices and environments and doing more, uh, with, uh, teaching and reinforcement. And, you know, we need emissaries who are advocating, um, to our generations who are coming out with a practice credential, don't see yourself as just a practitioner. And, and I don't say just a practitioner in a derogatory way, because I think it is such a noble and beautiful profession, but also see yourself as an influencer of others and a nurturer of others. It may take you a few years to get there. You got to kind of nurture yourself first and, you know, keep yourself in the game and learn how to master those new demands of the field, but stick around for a while and access those reinforcers of supporting a next generation to carry the torch. And I really do, you know, that's been a powerful reinforcer for me and I want part of, um, what I hope, um, people take from interactions with me is I love that, and it's fun, and it's valuable, and you should maybe go get some of those reinforcers yourself.

Shauna Costello (28:12):

Yeah. And it's great. I mean, I am supervising students right now and I absolutely love it. And it's so cool to see some of them, a couple of my current supervisees are getting their dual ABA OBM and their MBA masters. And then the other one is she's going straight back into education administration because she's like, no, we need to hit the admins.

Dr. Linda Leblanc (28:41):

Nursing home administration! Let me beat that drum one more time. If you want to be a behavioral gerontologist, go run the show where older people are.

Shauna Costello (28:51):

Yeah. And what, I mean, one of my students right now, he has a internship at NASA at Lanely. He's going to work for Amazon after this. And it's just like, these are not jobs that behavior analysts would necessarily look at. But if it's something that interests you, there is an opportunity for it. And I'm so excited for some of my new students to come in. One is she works with like, um, gender roles, gender identity, sexual orientation, diversity, diversity trainings. And I'm like, that's so cool. Like, think about like the different kinds of policies that could come from that. And it's so cool to be able to, like you said, nurture this new generation coming in. And I'm like, yeah, that might not necessarily be my main area of focus or what I'm good at, but you're going to teach me just as much as I'm going to teach you because I love learning. And I especially like, like you said, I love challenging myself as well because I, I like, I just like to be this little succubus of information, just keep it coming. So, I mean, do you have anything else that you want to make sure to tell everyone?

Dr. Linda Leblanc (30:05):

I don't think so. Yeah. I think just like go out, you know, Todd Risley said, um, do good and take data. And I would say, keep doing good and taking data and try to build that career longevity and sustainability and, um, wish everybody happiness and, um, and continued growth and learning.

Shauna Costello (30:37):

Well, thank you so much for agreeing to be on the podcast and just reiterate this. Everybody. Don't be afraid to reach out if you have questions or comments or feedback.

Dr. Linda Leblanc (30:48):

Thank you, Shauna.

Shauna Costello (30:51):

Thank you for listening to operant innovations. And as always, if you have questions, comments, or feedback, please feel free to reach out to us at


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