The Lift 011 | Identifying and resolving Problems in the Supervisory Relationship with Dr. Ellie Kazemi
An ABA Technologies Academy Podcast
1.0 BACB, 1 Supervision
Tyra P. Sellers, JD, PhD, BCBA-D
This podcast episode focuses on the importance of evaluating the health of the supervisory relationship to identify any emerging or issues. We discuss a structured process for detecting, evaluating, and addressing issues that are developing or are present in the relationships. Finally, we touch on strategies when considering to terminating the supervisory relationship.
What you’ll learn in the course and be able to do afterward
Attendees will be able to describe the risks associated with failing to identify and address issues within in the supervisory relationship.
Attendees will be able to identify the steps in detecting issues and determining the scope.
Attendees will be able to identify at least 2 strategies for engaging in a self-reflection of one’s practices and biases.
"This course is recommended for BCaBA, BCBA, and students of behavior analysis who will be or are currently receiving supervision"
The book focuses on the importance of strong relationships and teaching higher-order skills throughout any supervisory endeavor. The authors provide a conceptually sound set of supervision practices that will guide the actions of those who aspire to become better supervisors or mentors at any point in their careers.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (00:09):
Welcome, everybody, to episode 11 of The Lift. I'm Linda LeBlanc
Dr. Tyra Sellers (00:15):
And I'm Tyra.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (00:17):
Today we are so happy to be joined by our guest, Dr. Ellie Kazemi, our friend and colleague. Ellie's a professor in the department of psychology at Cal State, Northridge. She actually founded the masters of science program there in ABA in 2010 and, for a long time, served as the program chair. She has applied interests in supervision, practical training, conflict resolution. She also does fantastic laboratory research on technology, particularly robotics, and virtual or augmented reality. She's actually received several mentorship awards, including the ABAI best mentor award, the outstanding faculty award, the outstanding teaching award and the outstanding service award. She has a book that we absolutely love and have mentioned several times on this podcast, "Fieldwork and Supervision for Behavior Analysts: A handbook" for supervisees. Ellie, thank you so much for joining us.
Dr. Ellie Kazemi (01:28):
It's absolutely such an honor. It's so wonderful to see you both. Thank you for inviting me.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (01:34):
Ellie, you and I met several years ago, probably over a decade now, when you were just going to CSUN and I've never been so happy that someone reached out to me. Someone I never met before. Do you remember that?
Dr. Ellie Kazemi (01:51):
Yeah, I absolutely do.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (01:54):
So tell our listeners a little bit about how that happened and how we've remained connected for so long.
Dr. Ellie Kazemi (02:03):
Well, I have to say it's one of those things that makes me realize the importance of stepping outside of your comfort zone. I had such a girl crush on you and would get so nervous thinking about how much I admired the work that you do. At the time, there were so many great presentations on problem-solving and you just tackled some of the most important issues that were going on in the field. I just worked myself into coming up and standing by and continuing to stand and talk with you, even though I wasn't quite sure if I was in the right place. I just knew that I wanted to work with you and continue to learn from you. You were very, very positive. It was at a conference when we first met, but very quickly you reached out and were very helpful in asking me about personal life, my professional things, and how you can be helpful. I felt like I didn't need to do much more than just go out of my comfort zone a bit.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (03:17):
[Laughing] That's exactly right and a big part of it is being brave enough to meet someone. I think when there's a true mentoring relationship that doesn't come from some official channel, you meet someone, you like them, you see that they have a lot of good to do in the world, and you wanna be around that. If possible you want to help, you want to use whatever resources you have to see that person succeed. It started off at a conference, but over the years, we've been able to spend time together, go shopping. [Laughing] All the fun stuff that friends and colleagues do. That's really a big part of what keeps our field connected and interesting.
Dr. Ellie Kazemi (04:13):
Absolutely. I also have to say that it has a lot to do with your ability to make me feel so quickly welcome. I think that's very important. It's something I remind myself every time someone comes up to introduce themselves to me. I think of how quickly you made me feel like that was the right move.
Dr. Tyra Sellers (04:33):
That's Linda's southern charm coming out. It's funny, because we have a crush triangle. I felt the same way about you, Ellie, and Linda introduced us at a dinner, I think, in Denver. We talked about all the amazing things and then quickly became friends and colleagues. That's kind of a cool triple connection.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (05:01):
Absolutely. I think that's about connecting people through your network and it's a big part of how we get that, in our case, girl posse of people who are a resource to each other and wanna see each other succeed and help each other solve problems whenever we can. Ellie, I've always really admired your work. I remember this was something we talked about at that dinner. Your work on conflict resolution, and just the things that come up that we all try to avoid. We not only try, we succeed, even when we shouldn't. We avoid the heck out of those things until often they kind of blow up on us. I think that's really what our podcast today focuses on is, notice it early, if there are problems in the supervisory relationship and then resolve them.
Dr. Tyra Sellers (06:09):
That's right. This podcast has to do with the chapter around identifying and addressing issues that might arise in the supervisor relationship no matter where they arise from. Each of the chapters has a quote, and we read that quote for each of the podcasts. Our quote today is by Luvvie Ajayi Jones, "Avoidance has never been a great tactic in solving any problem. For most situations in life, not addressing what's going wrong only makes matters worse." I think that's a good lead into this topic and maybe that's exactly where we'll start. Why is it important for us to acknowledge, talk explicitly about trainees and supervisees about our predilection to avoid difficult situations when we know that's only going to make them worse?
Dr. Ellie Kazemi (07:20):
I think it's one of those things. Once you begin to explore an area, you brew on it and it becomes the thing you focus on and you notice everywhere. For me, with conflict management, I've definitely noticed that this is also a part of a cultural myth. We have this idea that conflict is atypical or rising conflict is bad, but actually conflict is more than typical. Siblings have conflicts, partners have conflicts. It's not having conflict that at all says there's something wrong. I actually learned recently it's truly absence of conflict that is something that should be a red flag. There might be an imbalance of power. Conflict itself sets the occasion for learning, but in our history that learning comes with a little bit of emotional distress, and it's only human to avoid anything that makes us sweat and makes us tremble a little bit. We have to work through a difficult conversation, and it only makes sense that we try to avoid those feelings. It absolutely does not lend to better outcomes because the more we wait, the bigger the conflict becomes and the more difficult it becomes.
Dr. Tyra Sellers (08:44):
I love the reminder that a conflict free relationship is not the goal. That's not what we're striving for, right? If you have a completely... Now that you may have a relationship where the conflicts are minimal, the conflicts are not very heated because you both have pretty good skills. Maybe there's a good power balance, as you mentioned, Ellie. When we talk about conflict, you've got the, "Geez, Linda, you interrupted me and I still have a point," conflict versus the, "Wow, I'm gonna puke because I have this really difficult conversation I need to have with somebody." I love the idea that if you are in a relationship and it's completely conflict free, that's what's going on. That should be the concern.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (09:33):
There is that natural power imbalance that exists in supervisory relationships. We talk a lot in the book about how to try to minimize that, how to basically at least welcome that input, welcome that feedback and have it be bi-directional, but it's still always going to be the case that ultimately the supervisor has that oversight and responsibility, and that can introduce some issues into the relationship or exacerbate even just not a good match. I think one of the things we felt like when we were writing the book is we wanted to be honest, "All right, here's all this great stuff that you can do to really be a fantastic supervisor, but still even if you do all of that stuff, it could go wrong."
Dr. Tyra Sellers (10:33):
Something's going to happen. [Laughing]
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (10:35):
Exactly. If you supervise a hundred people and problems only arise with one or two, you're kind of crushing it.
Dr. Ellie Kazemi (10:43):
[Laughing] Absolutely. We're not a good match for everyone. I also love that in the book you address the different geographies of what that can look like, because I definitely think the imbalance in power between a supervisor and supervisee may mean that if there is any value, differences, any perspective. Differences that a supervisee may feel less inclined to state that, less inclined to bring it to your attention immediately, but you are going to see some of these other indicators you provided such as withdrawing or not providing as much information. I think being on the lookout for and accepting that we're not gonna always be on the same page and that it's okay to set the occasion for those conversations, I think is really the key.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (11:34):
We can look at our supervisee's overt behavior or lack of behavior, even being some of the indicators, but we have access to our covert behavior. I think that can be a good indicator too, that something's not quite right, that you're not feeling great about the interactions with the supervisee. Maybe the supervisee isn't even noticing that. Probably they are, we've also got to self-reflect and think about our own behavior. If there's one meeting to cancel this week, am I hoping it's that one? That says something if we bother to listen to it and be open with ourselves and honest about that and that's likely to only worsen unless I think about what the issue is and whether it's something that needs to be addressed or not.
Dr. Tyra Sellers (12:42):
Absolutely. I think until you tacked it, you're behaving in a way that is impacted by it, but you don't realize it, you are not controlling it. You're not able to make good choices. Even if the other person can't tack it, they're still behaving in response to the way you are behaving. I think, Linda, you talk about looking for smoke, which I love. Look for the smaller nuanced things where the repairs will be so much easier than if you let something fester and that you have to be actively engaged in that look. It doesn't mean you're a worry wart. It doesn't mean you're looking for problems. It just means you're constantly tending to the relationship in this purposeful way where we say, "Look for smoke," but you should also be looking for all the awesome things that you can celebrate. We're most likely to look away from the smoke. I think that's why it's important to really call that out. I wonder, Ellie, what are some of the things maybe that you do or that you coach or mentor others to do to be present and mindful and reflective and really actively cultivate a continued check-in on the health of the relationship?
Dr. Ellie Kazemi (14:08):
Yeah, that's an excellent point. One thing that I have begun to do... These are all when I go back in my history as a supervisor, there are so many things I've done wrong [Laughing] and continue to learn over time. By no means have I always done these, so mentees out there who are like, "Woo," and that's because you're constantly learning [Laughing] and I definitely have recognized that I need to call it out. I used to feel exactly those forward feelings that Linda was bringing up, "Hey, I noticed you are not speaking as much during group discussions. I noticed when you bring the agenda items to me during the supervision meeting, it's much more brief." Now we get to business. You're no longer sharing any information outside of that. I used to wait for the issue to rise or for the person to tell me something, because I was like, "Maybe it's me. Maybe they're not having a good day." There were all these self doubts I had as to why I'm maybe detecting that. I had to gain the language literally to be able to say, "I noticed that during your agenda items, when you're telling me things, you're no longer telling me about some of those extracurricular activities or your other activities. I've noticed that you canceled a few meetings with me in the past. You hadn't canceled as many as frequently. Am I reading into it or is something going on for you?" I've become much more comfortable going, "Maybe I'm reading into it, tell me if that's what I'm doing. Otherwise let's open the conversation."
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (15:47):
Either one of those answers is okay. I think you don't often ask that question if we don't wanna know. If it's not just that you're reading into it. [Laughing] You're right. I think there's a certain level of maturity or even confidence that if you find out that is the answer, you're going to be able to handle it and you're going to have the will and interest to say, "Let's talk about what happened." It's not gonna crush my soul to hear that I messed up. You get a little more used to, "I've messed up a lot. I've been doing this a long time [Laughing] and I might even mess up the same way I messed up before and I'll still have the caring and the will to try to fix it." The only way to get there is to ask that question. All of us, Tyra and I, and it seems like everyone of our guests have talked about how I wish every supervisee I'd ever had had the now version of me rather than the one they had [Laughing] Even if they thought it was pretty good. I know so much more now. Part of what has changed is my confidence in my ability to face that I messed up or that someone else is just having some circumstances in their life and that I'll be able to problem solve around that.
Dr. Tyra Sellers (17:28):
The moment of realization came for me mid-supervisory career. I was reflecting over the fact that I thought something wasn't going well with a trainee and that I worried about this going on, but maybe they were perceiving this thing, but maybe I did something, but maybe whatever. I was having this conversation in my head and then I stopped and I was, "You know what, dummy? The only way you're gonna know is if you ask," That's the only way you're gonna know, because you could try to behave in different ways based on the 5 million different scenarios that you're telling yourself in your head, but there's only one way you're gonna know which the right function matched response. If you open your stupid mouth and say something and you're probably gonna say it wrong and that's okay. I did and it turns out, in fact, that the thing that was happening, wasn't even one of the 5 million things I had in my head. It was like the 5 millionth in one that I wasn't even smart enough to think about. It was totally fixable, easily addressable, and after, that's what I always say to myself when I'm thinking about things. If the data I need is with someone else, I need to get that data from that other person. Then I focus not on what the data could be, but I focus on how I can get the data in a respectful, compassionate, considerate way. PS, the data might be, "Tyra, you're a jerk and you did something wrong," and that's okay too.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (19:02):
Well, until you are less of a jerk. Not that you're a jerk, at all. [Laughing] I do think it's almost like we fall into that attribution error of, "I'm noticing this and I'm afraid it's about me," or even, "It's about them" and it might be absolutely none of those. There might be a perfectly viable reason particularly for change. It's one thing if there's never been that level of comfort, another thing altogether, if there's been a level of comfort or there's been a level of productivity and timeliness and progress, and that changes. That notion of you are only gonna know your circumstances, but that person might have circumstances that have nothing to do with you that are affecting them. Mostly what they need from you is to know that those circumstances exist and they need a little help and tolerance right now, or they need a couple of extra prompts or what have you. I think that notion of the scope of, "Is it just this person? Is it all of my people?" Tyra always says, "Guess what the common denominator is here." [Laughing] That's certainly true, but very often it could go well with the vast majority of the people that you supervise and it feels like, "Man, I just can't get a handle on this." If you examine your own behavior, it's also possible that this person is having perhaps some mental health or wellness issues or a family member with unusual pressures. I don't know about y'all, but I was dirt poor in grad school. When you're really worried about finances, it can influence so many things in ways that you don't realize. I'm noticing something, but I don't know what I'm noticing and thinking about that scope, "Is this just with me? Is this with everyone? Is this just with them? And is this new or a change?" Ellie, you mentioned that notion of you used to talk about these things and have more details. We used our whole lot of time together and it doesn't feel that way anymore. Change can really be an indicator that just something's off and it doesn't have to be you or them, or the way that either of you have behave., It might be that, but it could be these other things that are just associated with life.
Dr. Ellie Kazemi (22:19):
Oh, absolutely. I think that Tyra mentioned earlier there was this moment of, "Aha!" in her career. I think my aha moment that really made conflict resolution completely makes sense to me as to why we need to train differently and think of supervision in different ways, when I was receiving training through the university for mentoring individuals who typically would not select higher education. They're coming from backgrounds either in socioeconomic status or cultural, ethnic histories that they would not typically think of as a career for themselves, particularly when I'm doing some of the work in technology. It was just this brilliant discussion about how we go through life, thinking of our intent, and we are pretty sure our intent is what we're putting out there. What people see is our intent, but we fail to really understand that the impact of behavior is really that receiver's history. That their lens on the world is their history. We may have no clue that the impact of our behavior was a complete mismatch to our intent. I think that that completely changed the way I saw that approach to a student. It was no longer about my intent. I'm solid on my intent. I do know how much I care about my commitments and what I want for my students. It was the realization that may not at all be how it's impacting them and vice versa. That they might not at all recognize the alternative things going on for them is beginning to impact them in a manner or that they're no longer seeking help conversing about things with me. It really, I think, changed the way I look at the discussion for me.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (24:08):
Absolutely. Let's say we notice it and let's say we need to start that conversation. Hopefully we noticed it early. There are well established ways to approach these conversations and I think sometimes people assume it's easy for them to talk about it. Maybe we've built a skill set over time that includes components that anyone could build. I'm always a little chagrined when I hear someone say, "I'm just avoidant. I don't do those conversations well." I always wanna say, "Well right now, yes, but you don't have to view that as the way it's always gotta be." If you see that it could be important to be able to be more direct, more compassionate, or even more curious and more calm during these conversations. There are things you can do to actually build that skillset. I know you've done work in this and you even offer workshops and training in this. I'd love to hear a little bit about that if you don't mind sharing with us.
Dr. Tyra Sellers (25:42):
Dr. Ellie Kazemi (25:43):
[Laughing] Of course. I think that there are two main components to any conflict management workshop. I was fortunate in that Chelsea Carter was a student of mine at the time that my interest in conflict resolution peaked, because she came from a family where she had worked. Her father was in human resources and she had a lot of interest. She came into this project with a lot of experience and as life usually does, we happened to at the time that we picked up this project, pick up a collaborator in the department of special education who was doing these large scale conflict resolution training for principals and school personnel. Together, what we realized is if we go across the literature, we can pretty much identify these two main skills that we need to build. I would honestly say that none of us have it. I don't know anyone who comes with it. It's rare to have in your repertoire. It is absolutely something to work on. I'm definitely learning that sometimes I'm better at it with some individuals. There are others with whom, for whatever history, for whatever things that they evoke, I have a harder time with it. I think that the two main components are to learn to identify if it is bad to be okay with just throwing it down and going, "It sounds like I've hurt you. It sounds like I've taken actions that even though they're not my intent, they've resulted in some difficulties. I want to empathically apologize," and learning to empathically apologize is itself a skill. Many of us have heard apologies where we're like, "Yeah, I hear you, but not really." One of the first things we learned while we're doing the workshop was we need to teach empathy apologies. That itself is a skill. The second is a concept that I've been introduced to in clinical psychology, but I've come to really understand even better now taking the behavioral perspective of it: Active listening. It's completely letting go of your own history, letting go of any of your own judgment, your memory of the situation, thinking you trust your eyes. Nope. This is what happened. I remember this is what happened. Letting go of all of it and hearing from someone else, their view of the world and really being able to hear that from them before responding. Those seem to be the two key components of being able to manage conflicts well.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (28:20):
I think those are fantastic. Similarly, hollow apologies, I think often actually do more harm than good. It now gives you one more thing to be upset with that person about. I also think that notion of active listening is a fantastic skill for anyone to develop. Not just in conflict resolution, but in everything that they do. Listen for information, listen to gain information rather than to wait until you can tell your other thing. That is hard to do, particularly when the temperature's high in the room. You know what I mean? [Laughing]
Dr. Tyra Sellers (29:04):
Yeah. I think along the same lines, listen from the position that the other person's point of view is reasonable to them. It might not be reasonable to you, but it's reasonable to them. They're human, they've made it this far in life. They clearly have some skills. For whatever reason, they came to this conclusion and they deserve for you to make the space. As you said to Ellie, non-judgmentally let go of your judgment. That's part of compassion, right? Two components of compassion that I think are so important are non-judgment and being willing to sit in some discomfort. I love that you brought that into there as well. I just wanna say, before I forget, I love that you tacked that even if you become good, generally speaking, at engaging in these behaviors, good meaning, fluent, and generally you have an okay outcome. There may be instances where you're not, and it may be some stimulus properties that another person has or something in your learning history, because I certainly have experienced that too, where I think I do pretty well. Then all of a sudden I'm not in this situation. I have to really take a moment to reflect and go back to the skills that are super fluent for me normally, but remember that there are strategies that I can implement and I just have to talk to myself to be more present. I appreciate that you brought that up.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (30:41):
I think it is so true that our skill sets are under stimulus control and it may be under relatively broad stimulus control, but at some point you're going to encounter that situation where you don't get the skilled generalization or the interfering emotion states, or interfering behavior are at such strength from your learning history with either that person or someone who behaves like the people that you've had that learning history with, that behavior gets evoked. We wish it was the other ones, but it wasn't. I think we have to acknowledge that if you're human, then your behavior is a function of your history and your current circumstances. Catch it as quickly as you can. Even to be able to say, "I'm not in a great space to continue this conversation right now." If you notice that it's not going as well as it could, even if nothing else goes your way, that could be your saving grace and in order to do that, you have to notice, "Okay, all my little rules and rule governance are gone. This is hardcore contingency shaped." I need to get a little distance from this in order to really be able to do something that matches what I want to be able to do. The intent as you talk about it. If you are going to be anyone interacting with anyone else, you should expect there to be some conversations that require preparation. One of the things that I love about the crucial conversations model, there is a book published on this. We've even talked about it in some of our other podcasts, but it's the notion that if you are feeling anxious, worried, a little bit of tummy reactivity, whatever it is, that's a good indicator to you that something big is coming up, or even that you're already in it. If you can do anything to plan for it. I think there are lots of times when, if you're noticing early and you're deciding, "I think there's something there. I'm going to initiate this." You have every opportunity in the world to plan, "How am I gonna say this in a way that is open and welcoming and conveys that whatever your answer is, I'm here to hear it?" And you appreciate that their perspective is valuable. There are also certain phrases that would be better if none of us had in our repertoire in histories, but we do and recognizing, "All right, what are the things that I might say that are gonna blow this up no matter what your perspective is?" If I say, "Yeah, but..." I'm going down the wrong path to monitor for.
Dr. Ellie Kazemi (34:29):
Absolutely. I think coming up with thinking to yourself, "What will I say? How will I say it?" also saves you from the first things that you would come up with. For example, if a supervisee is not coming to meetings or is saying less, I'm more prone to tacking that as, "Hey, you seem to be dodging me," which comes with judgment. I give myself a few minutes, I can now describe their behavior instead of my judgment of it really, but that is the more common way I would typically address it. I think that's very important. I do think that it's important that we don't fool ourselves though, into thinking that I just need more time to think about things. I've also sometimes talked with supervisors who are thinking about how to address it. Like, "Yeah, but it's been a week." By now, you know you're avoiding it. Yes. I think it's good to be aware of that. Prepare, but do not fool yourself into thinking that you're preparing if you are taking ong. You wanna address it as quickly as you possibly can, but have given yourself time to come up with the right words, for sure.
Dr. Tyra Sellers (35:46):
I love that. I'm thinking back to two instances where I tried to prepare and just nothing. I wasn't gonna come up with the right words. I wasn't gonna find the right way and the conversation still had to happen. The recommendation from a mentor, who was a behavior analyst, was just start the conversation and say it. You have to have this conversation and you're nervous about it, and you're sorry, and you might stumble over your words, but it's really important to have this conversation. It still sucked and I didn't feel in good control, but at least the conversation got started. Once we were engaging in some behavior around the topic, I had something I could shape. I could shape my own behavior, because I was a listener to my own verbal behavior as well, and I could shape their behavior. I love that idea. You want to go in prepared as best you can, but sometimes you might be facing something, either because of your learning history, or just because this thing is so wack and doodle and new. You've never like, "I've never come across this before. I don't know how to address it." Sometimes you just gotta jump in the water and say, "Geez, this is gonna be weird and I'm sorry, but I value you and I know you value me and we just have to talk about this."
Dr. Ellie Kazemi (37:16):
Yeah. I love that. I love what you just said too, because I do think relaying that we're gonna have this conversation. "I don't feel as prepared for it, but I'm doing it because I value you," really opens the conversation. I don't know if you feel this way, but I think my history was that I always remembered conflict to come in. I open it and then it blows up on me. The blow up part is what you remember. I think it's because sometimes we're not giving enough time and space for de escalation and for the ending to really remain as a part of our memory of those conversations. It's important that we are giving ourselves the time, because if we're doing it right, even if it is not a very emotional conversation, there's some emotion that comes with any value differences, any change or differences that we're about to discuss, there's discomfort. It's okay, because there's the de escalation we're looking for after. It's not that you can dodge the discomfort, the discomfort will be there. It's gonna be there.
Dr. Tyra Sellers (38:24):
It's part of it.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (38:26):
Absolutely. One of the things we talk about in the book, and actually is in the original article that this chapter was based on, is that sometimes there are these core deficits that the supervisee has, making lots of little problems show up and it's the hot mess of things aren't very high quality. They're late and not done and you have to start piece together: Is there one of these core skills that's touching a whole lot of their repertoires or a whole lot of our interactions? The difficult conversation is about, "I have to talk to you about the fact that you are not as organized and you're not managing yourself the way that you need to really succeed as a professional." It's gonna be the end of you from a stress and opportunities perspective, if you don't get up on time and get to things on time and give yourself time to prepare and not come in looking wild and disheveled, and, "I gotta get it together." There's just no way your clients are gonna be able to be comfortable with that experience. I'm not and it has to change. That too can be a hard conversation, or even how about this one? "I think the issue is that there are certain things about your social behavior that can be really off-putting." You can hear my tone of voice. That's not fun and yet sometimes that's the issue and you're seeing this person struggle in several different areas as a result of it. From either of you, what are your thoughts on that except, "Not it"?
Dr. Ellie Kazemi (41:00):
[Laughing] I think that you're addressing those difficult conversations we're in a place to have with our supervisees. I feel in a position of absolute privilege to be able to hold those conversations, because it means that I am able to provide support in something that could be totally pivotal for the individual. It is absolutely difficult as a conversation because also it's usually quite ingrained and pervasive across different things for them. It's not exactly like you can say, "Hey, we need to work on some of these social demeanors that can really be off-putting and make people not listen to the content of what you're saying." It's difficult for anyone to hear that. We have to think about how to deliver that in a caring, meaningful way, but also how to really have some solutions that are tangible and doable. We don't dump this like, "Hey, you may not be so likable." And then we leave them.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (42:08):
That's really too bad for you. Yeah, that's hard.
Dr. Ellie Kazemi (42:12):
But I love you. Okay. [Laughing]
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (42:17):
I do think sometimes we have people that are very excited and interested in the scientific aspects of our field. They may or may not have the kinds of socially savvy responses that are particularly going to be necessary in their peer relationships, but also in their therapeutic relationships. Talking about the fact that you have to either be really committed to making this change and building these skills, or this might not be the right professional path for you. I think that's a hard conversation to have. In fact, the circumstances are such that you really are in that position. If you avoid it, you leave someone investing time, effort, money, years into something, without a real understanding of how important it's going to be to be able to be really organized, or be empathetic and really effective as a listener.
Dr. Tyra Sellers (43:35):
I was just gonna add that sometimes in those situations where it does appear there's a core deficit related, I will ask the individual, "Is this the first time you're hearing about this? Am I the first person that's talking to you about this? Have you ever noticed people reacting in X, Y, Z way?" It can be hard to hear those things, and if there is a history that person has had, that will be helpful as we move forward. Then it's not just a, "I'm picking on you," thing and we're behavior analysts. We can figure this out together. I also think it's important with those core deficits to, as best we can, explore any cultural implications. It may be that it has been present for a while. It may be because it's a part of one or many intersecting cultures that person has, which is amazing. I wanna honor, but as you said, Linda, let's also explore. Do you need to add some other skills to your repertoire and learn how to discriminate when you might need to behave in X, Y, Z way for X, Y, Z outcome? It's all about what's the function? What's the outcome that you want? Pick the right responses to get that thing.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (45:13):
I think we all hope that every supervisory relationship goes well by detecting it early, exploring a plan, developing a plan, talking openly and honestly about it. For example, if it is organization, time management, that kind of stuff, there are resources out there, and you can give people tasks and support. There are Dale Carnegie courses out there for social skills and you can absolutely give people the option to work on this and even hold them accountable to do so. Sometimes you might not be able to fix it and sometimes what you might not be able to fix is the mismatch in how they see the world and is not a great match for you and how you see the world. That doesn't mean that they shouldn't have ongoing supervision, but it might mean you're not the right supervisor for them. That's hard, but it's something that, in a very small percentage of circumstances, could actually be the right solution. What's never the right solution is, "I'm not gonna be your supervisor anymore." The rude and crude breakup. We have that responsibility to not damage on the way out and to try to transition that supervision and oversight in a way that is as careful as if we were transitioning a client's services.
Dr. Tyra Sellers (47:11):
100%. Thank you for saying that, Linda.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (47:14):
Yeah. Tyra, what are some of your thoughts on how, if it happens in that rare instance, some of the things that you might do to make sure that it ends as well as it can end?
Dr. Tyra Sellers (47:31):
I think just expressing your goal is for them to be successful. If that isn't with you, that's okay for whatever reason and that you still want them to be successful. You want to support them. If you have the opportunity to connect them with other supervisors that you think will be a good match, then I think that's a fantastic thing to do. Offer to talk to them. If I can support you in how you might go about interviewing some other possible supervisors, not playing hot potato and just saying we're done. To your point, Linda, we have very clear expectations and requirements for how we would appropriately discharge or transition a client. That is the same thing with a trainee or a supervisee. It shouldn't be, "As of today, this is our last meeting." It should be like, "I get it. Things aren't the way we want them to be between us, but I will continue to supervise you. I will continue to provide support until we identify someone." You don't want to get in the way of them being able to count their hours that they're accruing, those sorts of things. You wanna find a way to be a support, not a barrier, even if it means you gotta put your ego aside and just say, "I think I'm not the right person, but I'm gonna do everything I can to set you up for success." Those are some of my thoughts. How about you, Ellie?
Dr. Ellie Kazemi (49:06):
I think that's absolutely true. Recognizing that you're not the right match for the individual is key. I don't know about you, but I find it easier if I've noticed it and I begin to address things that we can do together, but I've mentioned it in the past. It's not new that this is not working. They can tell, because I'm repeating this. I'm not feeling like I'm setting the right environment for you. I don't feel that you are optimally learning under my supervision. When it comes to finding someone else or if they've considered someone else, find that it's not a surprise and I've been lucky in that they come to me with," It's no surprise. We're not the right match. I found this other person. What do you think?" Those conversations are easier and I'm always happy to help and support. The truth is I think the toughest ones for me are when I don't think the person will be a good supervisee with anyone. I'm like, "We need to work on you and I can't tell someone else to supervise you, because some of these things need to occur before you can really become a good supervisee to anyone." I would love to hear how you both have dealt with that one, because that's the tough one for me when the individual may just not be taking accountability, or any responsibility for repeated error, or potentially even lying. There's evidence of just this constant mismatch.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (50:49):
Well, and it's not just mismatch, it's some misbehavior in terms of even if it's not a direct violation of the ethics code, it's about not fully accepting responsibility or behaving with integrity or that real commitment. I'm gonna get better at this rather than just get the number of hours. I feel very similar to you in that those are hard. That's an important conversation because it's not about passing the trash, "Hot potato, not my problem." This is gonna be a problem for clients. This is gonna be a problem for the field. Particularly when I see someone being a little loosey goosey with the rules or their judgment, or just not seeing that when you're saying to them, "I'm worried about this behavior. If it keeps going on, it's gonna be unethical." And they're like, "Why are you worried about this? This shouldn't be such an issue," or there is pushback consistently with feedback. You know you have a person who is likely to not be on a trajectory of continual learning and growth and where they are now is not sufficient to me. That's when I think about, "I'm not gonna be your supervisor anymore and I'll sign off on whatever, the hours up until now." What you need to know is that I also don't feel comfortable endorsing you to another supervisor and here's why. If these things were to not change, I wouldn't be comfortable with you being in this field. I wouldn't be comfortable with you being independently responsible for the care of vulnerable people and that worries me. It worries me for you and it worries me for future clients. I know this is hard to hear, but I can't not say that this is a huge barrier to what I see as you having a path forward. That's such a hard conversation.
Dr. Ellie Kazemi (53:15):
It really is. Absolutely.
Dr. Tyra Sellers (53:17):
You just gave a lovely script for it. So listen, you should replay that, write it down and have it in your back pocket. Linda, you just crushed that.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (53:26):
Oh, Lord. I'll tell you what, even if you do that, you come away from it feeling kind of crushed. Sometimes the goal of the conversation is the least bad experience that people can have and the best that you can do. Fortunately, the majority of the conversations don't go that way. Ellie, I love what you mentioned about if you really mentioned it before multiple times, then it's not a surprise. It doesn't feel like some unexpected hammer, so if you get to the point where the relationship might need to end, or that conversation has to be hard, everything that you've done, every other step of the way that you talk about in your book and that we talk about in our book, all of that pays forward. All of that really is what makes it easier. It's one of those things where a lot of times your primary solution for when it gets tough, is all the groundwork you've been laying before.
Dr. Ellie Kazemi (54:42):
It really is. I love that you called it by centralizing everything around the relationship because it isn't a singular sample of behavior. There are many samples and that's what we are depending on in our relationships. I absolutely agree.
Dr. Linda LeBlanc (55:02):
Well, it has been an absolute pleasure to spend time with you again and really to talk about something I know is an interest for all of us that many other people are like, "Ooh, okay. Yes, I'll hear about that." Thank you for sharing your knowledge and your wisdom for us on this episode of our podcast. Hopefully we're gonna get to do more good stuff together in the future.
Dr. Ellie Kazemi (55:35):
Yeah, I don't doubt it. I deeply appreciate being here and I love always hearing all the different ways that you both address things that I'm continuously learning from you. Thank you for having me.
Dr. Tyra Sellers(55:46):
Likewise. Thank you so much. Very excited for folks to hear this information and thank you for sharing your time with us today. Thanks everybody. Bye.
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