By Ewa Kuliga
Polskie Stowarzyszenie Terapii Behawioralnej (Polish Association of Behavioural Therapy; PABT), is a countrywide nonprofit organization of active practitioners of behavioral therapy. PABT’s mission is to provide people with disabilities—especially suffering from emotional and developmental disorders—and their families with multidirectional, comprehensive, and professional help. PATB’s important aim is promoting behavioral therapy among therapists and academics.
Currently, PABT has more than 44 registered members from every significant behavioral therapy center in Poland, as well as parents of persons undergoing behavioral therapy and other concerned experts (physicians, academics, and students). It cooperates with a number of Polish centers and institutions focused on providing effective help to persons with autism and publishes the informational periodical Krok za krokiem (Step by Step), which contains articles by world-renowned experts on teaching persons with autism.
PABT has promoted behavioral therapy by organizing specialist trainings for a wide range of attendees (mainly the teachers and parents of the emotionally and developmentally disabled). Over 1,000 participants attended such trainings in 2020.
In 2014, the association formed non-public schools “UMIEM” (“I can”). Two of them are located in Krakow, and one opened in September 2017 in Raciborz. In total, “UMIEM” schools provide education to 32 students with autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disabilities.
Since 2010, boards of two Polish Chapters of ABAI (i.e., PABT and Polish Society of Behavioral Psychology) have been working on a joint program—Polish License of Behavioral Therapist—to standardize formal requirements for behavioral therapists in Poland. The purpose of these activities is to consolidate and formalize professional training for behavioral therapists in Poland, and thus define the requirements for practicing therapists to make behavioral therapy clearly identifiable by the highest quality of therapeutic services. Polish License of Behavioral Therapist runs an integrated system of theoretical and practical training to enable trainees to gain the title of behavioral therapist. At present, 229 people in Poland have been granted the title of licensed behavioral therapist, 31 people have the title of behavioral supervisor and 4,000 are in the process of acquiring qualifications.
A set of theoretical and practical trainings framed as six preparatory routes, as well as the appropriate examination criteria, have been prepared for persons applying for the granting of the occupational title of behavioral therapist:
- Route I (for practicing therapists) includes completion of a three-level course in behavioral therapy and at least five specialization courses, no less than 2 years of professional practice under supervision, completion of no less than 50 hours of internships at any of the collaborating centers and a positive reference from the head of the relevant therapy center.
- Route II includes completion of a three-level course in behavioral therapy and at least five specialization courses, completion of no less than 120 hours of internships at any of the collaborating centers, professional practice under supervision (a minimum of 50 hours of supervision), and a positive reference from the supervisor.
- Route III includes completion of the following courses from the Institute of Psychology at Jagiellonian University: “Analiza zachowania (behavior analysis)” and “Stosowana analiza zachowania (applied behavior analysis)”, completion of at least five specialization courses, no less than 100 hours of internships at any of the collaborating centers, professional practice under supervision, and a positive reference from the supervisor.
- Route IV includes completion of postgraduate studies in applied behavior analysis at the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, completion of no less than 80 hours of internships at any of the collaborating centers, professional practice under supervision (a minimum of 50 hours of supervision per year), and a positive reference from the supervisor.
- Route V includes completing second degree studies in the Faculty of Psychology of the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities (also as a unified master’s degree studies): “The Psychology of shaping and modifying behavior”, master’s degree studies in psychology in the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Poznań, module: “Application of behavior therapy in education for children of normal and disordered development—an introduction”, other relevant studies including a module covering applied behavior analysis, lasting at least 60 didactic units; the coursework has to be presented to the Board of Polish License of Behavior Therapy system for official acceptance, at least five specialty courses, at least 100 hours of training in one of the collaborating facilities, including at least two training periods of minimum five consecutive days each (i.e. at least 20 hours each), work under a supervision of a current holder of a Supervisor’s License (at least 50 hours of supervision).
- Route VI includes obtaining a BCBA certificate.
PABT has conducted practical trainings (training and observational internships) for pedagogy (The Pedagogical University of Cracow, Jagiellonian University) and psychology (Jagiellonian University) students and tutors from other educational institutions.
PABT continues to fulfill statutory activities in forms focused on helping the disabled:
- The Behavioral Therapy Clinic (BTC) in Cracow and a local branch of the BTC in Rzeszow and Raciborz provides therapeutic support for the families of developmentally and emotionally challenged persons from all over Poland. The BTC’s operations include diagnostic consultations for children with suspected developmental disorders (performed usually by a team consisting of a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a speech therapist, a special education teacher, and a rehabilitator) and conducting home therapy programs. Consultations are an opportunity to establish an individual therapeutic program and parents are instructed on its implementation; during subsequent visits, the program undergoes the necessary modifications and the parents’ skills are being further improved. Currently PABT’s BTC oversees home therapy for almost 3500 families throughout Poland.
- The Emergency Intervention Team (EIT) is a short-term (up to 2 weeks), intensive therapy for persons with developmental and behavioral disorders and their families facing material and other hardships.
In 2020, PSTB wasn’t able to organize neither conference, nor therapeutic camp due to COVID-19. Majority of training courses took place online. PABT’s Ambulance is an online form of help destined for people and families in need of assistance. In order to give professional help PABT’s Ambulance has offered difficulties’ diagnosis, analysis of video material and instruction of therapeutic skills.
PABT’s outreach started extending beyond Poland. According to our survey (N=505) conducted in early 2020, 3,8% of Polish behavior therapists also work abroad, mostly in the British Isles and Czech Republic. Some of them also work in Germany and Austria or Italy. In 2017 PABT accepted international members and started cooperation with “ADAM” from Czech Republic. Since then, we had Czech therapists attending our courses and applying for internships in Polish licensed behavior therapy centers. Due to this cooperation, we established Silesian-Moravian Office in Raciborz. We also had Ukrainian specialists expressing interest in bringing high-quality behavior therapy to their country.
In 2020, PABT and Polish Society of Behavioral Psychology started talks with specialists and centers not associated with us, to establish some form of agreement and work with BACB towards establishing a country-wide credentialing system that would be recognized by the authorities and legal system. These talks were stopped due to the pandemic and its influence of schools and therapeutic centers.
In 2021, further works related to the adaptation of the SYSABA IT system (System of support for behavioral therapy centers working with people affected by developmental disorders) has been carried out.
The aim of SYSABA was to develop and create a unique computer system for comprehensive support of a behavioral therapist working mainly with people with developmental disorders. The most important functions of the system are:
- keeping electronic files with controlled access creating a tool for fast data entry during therapy,
- creating analyzes of conducted therapies in real time,
- support of the therapist’s decision about the next steps of therapy,
- support for some forms of training for future therapists,
- detection of knowledge in patient data and their therapy.
At present, 62 therapeutic centers use SYSABA. PABT works to obtain resources that allow further development of the organization and introduce new statutory activities (including research programs).