Whether you are a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) with years of experience, or you are new to the ABA field, chances are good you’ve heard people talking about feeling “Burned Out”. Of course, people working in Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy are well-known for experiencing this phenomenon.

What Does It Mean To Be Burned Out?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “Burn Out” as “Exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.” The World Health Organization (WHO) considers it an occupational phenomenon versus a medical condition, and defines it as follows:

Of course, it’s not something that is limited to BCBAs, RBTs, and ABA therapists. It is a condition shared by all human beings who are overworked, over-stressed, and remain in those conditions without relief.

The Progression Of Vocational Burn Out

When it comes to vocational stress, feeling Burned out can be conceptualized as a syndrome where one feels chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. This is often characterized by three escalating factors.

It starts with the general feeling of being depleted of energy that gradually transitions into an increasing sense of exhaustion.
The second phase of burnout is often characterized by an increased mental distance from one’s vocation, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to their job performance. This is then followed by a reduced sense of professional efficacy.

Though it’s important to bear in mind that these phrases refer to professional or vocational burnout. There are other areas of life where they experience and progression of burnout follows a different pattern and can take on a different progression.

How To Tell If You Are Starting To Feel Or Are Burned Out?

It can be hard for even a trained mental health professional to accurately self-assess whether they are burned out or not. We all struggle at times to look accurately in the mirror. Though some of the telltale signs of an individual who is experiencing vocational burnout include things like:

  • Increased errors and omissions when performing work duties
  • Absences from work without notice
  • A recurring feeling of being overwhelmed by responsibilities
  • A feeling like there is no end in sight for increasing demands at work
  • A general unwillingness to socially engage with others outside of the work environment
  • Decreased enthusiasm for new initiatives or projects
  • Increased cynicism, or criticism toward policies or procedures
  • A general, and a growing sense of apathy
  • Decreased motivation to engage in work activities
  • Loss of interest in work activities

How To Prevent Or Reduce Vocational Burnout

If you are a BCBA or an ABA Therapist, you know that burnout is one of the biggest problems in the field. Here are some tips on how to prevent that burnout from ever happening in the first place.

Develop Healthy Limits On Your Hours

It’s easy to put in overtime hours upon hours in search of success for your practice. Especially if you have a small practice or you are a solo practitioner who is also challenged with the tasks of essentially being a small business owner.

Set WIP Limits

WIP stands for “Works In Progress” and is a term that you see in a lot of industries that produce products or create symmetry. The concept is based on the idea that you will do better focusing on doing great at a modest number of endeavors, rather than trying to do an adequate job at an enormous number of things.

For a small practice or solo practitioner, this means focusing on a specific number of clients while also making a healthy amount of time available for other things like continuing education, expanding the scale of your small business, and the number of hours you set aside for administrative tasks like medical billing.

Make An Effort To Maintain A Positive Attitude

A positive attitude or a sense of optimism will go a long way toward seeing the good in your challenges rather than feeling overwhelmed by them. While you might have a few practices in place, it might help to refresh them with things like keeping a gratitude journal or even seeing a therapist yourself to help you reflect on positive sources in your own challenges.

Consider Adding Staff

Many solo practitioners are forced to wear a lot of different hats that come as part and parcel of essentially being a small business owner. This often includes a staggering array of administrative tasks like coding and medical billing that are outside their general scope of focus.

If you only have minimal training in some administrative tasks, it can help you to hire one or two people to help shoulder the burden of administrative tasks including medical billing, coding, scheduling patients, coordinating with insurance providers, new patient in-take forms, referring patients for diagnostics and specialty services or getting necessary pre-approvals from insurance providers.

Consider Outsourcing Some Administrative Tasks

You might find that your small or solo practice simply doesn’t have the available funds to hire additional administrative staff. Though you might be happy to hear that there are third-party agencies that you can outsource key administrative duties to for a very reasonable rate. This includes outsourcing medical coding and billing to free up your time to stay focused on patient care, as well as reducing your own stress levels.

The Benefits Of Outsourcing Medical Billing

Several benefits come with outsourcing your medical billing services to a third-party agency like Operant Billing Solutions. Right off the bat, you can more precious time to decompress and avoid burnout, or simply spend more time focusing on providing your patients with the highest level of care possible.

At the same time, a lot of small practices and solo practitioners who outsource their coding and medical billing needs also find that their revenue stream becomes more consistent. They experience fewer claim rejections and claim denials, which reduces their outgoing stress, while also seeing reimbursements coming in to your practice consistently, which reduces the chronic problems associated with financial stress.