PSYCH553-23X (HAM)

The Practice of Psychology ABA

60 Points

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Division of Arts Law Psychology & Social Sciences
School of Psychology


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What this paper is about

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This paper is the internship element of the PGDipPracPsych(ABA) programme and only available to students who are enrolled in that programme. In order to be accepted into the PGDipPracPsych(ABA) programme students must meet a number of conditions (have a Masters in psychology, evidence of significant background knowledge of ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis), and have secured an internship). A limited number of students are accepted into this programme each year and the final selection of candidates is via an interview with a panel of staff in the programme.

Psych553 takes 12 month of fulltime study, or 24 months of part time study. Psych 553 is essentially the individual and group supervision that is a key element of the PGDipPracPsych(ABA) programme. The focus is therefore on the development of sound professional practice within individual students' internships, and specifically the application of behaviour analytic practices. Alongside Psych551, and Psych552, which provide the content of the internship, Psych553, seeks to shape professional competence through group and individual discussions around actual cases.

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How this paper will be taught

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Supervisory Contract

At the start of the programme a supervisory contract will be negotiated with each student. A signed copy of this will be kept by the student and a copy will be kept in their file at the University. Student should also negotiate contracts with their field supervisor(s).

Supervision requirements

To enrol in this course there needs to be appropriate university and onsite or field supervision available for the student. Students undertaking this course to gain registration as a Psychologist in New Zealand through the New Zealand Psychologists Board under the Health Professional Competency Act (HPCA), must have field supervision from a psychologist registered under that Act. University based supervision is provided by the university staff involved in the course who are registered psychologists. The field supervisory arrangements must be approved by the university prior to enrolment. Where there is no suitable field supervisor available in that agency then the employer may choose to employ an appropriate supervisor for the intern.

Onsite (field) supervision

The supervisor must observe and provide feedback to the supervisee on his/her behaviouranalytic activities with a client in the natural environment during each required supervisory period. This may be conducted in person, via webcameras, videotape, video conferencing, or similar means in lieu of the supervisor being physically present.

Supervisory forms for each supervision period

There is a form available on Moodle developed for PSYCH553. A supervision forms should be completed for each supervisory period. Supervision documentation should be retained for at least 7 years. Students are responsible for keeping details of supervision uptodate throughout their internship and these will be reviewed regularly with the supervisor(s). These hours should also be included in the practice log and must be available as part of the work folio for the examiners in the final examination.

Supervision Details

The purpose of supervision is to improve and maintain the behaviour analytic, professional, and ethical repertoires of the supervisee and facilitate the delivery of high quality services to his/her clients. The supervisor(s) will observe the applicant engaging in behaviour analytic activities in the natural environment and will provide specific feedback on performance. This observation can be conducted via web cameras, videos, videoconferencing, or similar means in lieu of the supervisor being 5 physically present. To this end students should bring a recording of examples of their performance to individual supervision sessions that are not in their workplace.

Effective behaviour analytic supervision includes:

  • Development of performance expectations
  • Observation, behavioural skills training, and delivery of performance feedback
  • Modelling technical, professional, and ethical behaviour
  • Guiding behavioural case conceptualization, problem solving, and decision making repertoires
  • Review of written materials (e.g., behaviour programs, data sheets, reports)
  • Oversight and evaluation of the effects of behavioural service delivery
  • Ongoing evaluation of the effects of supervision

In PSYCH553 Group supervision will involve regular weekly meetings. There will also be regular individual supervision meetings with university based and the field supervisors. Some of supervision sessions may be conducted via Zoom or the phone. The aim of an individual supervision session is for the supervisor to be brought up to date with the student’s practice, and to highlight issues and concerns for discussion. It is also intended that the meetings address any issues the student brings to the table. Individual supervision sessions should allow the supervisor to see the student at work – either in the natural setting or by the use of video or webcams to allow the provision of appropriate feedback. When individual supervision takes place in the practicum setting in person (or via Zoom) there should be time allowed for the supervisor to see the intern at work and to provide feedback. When individual supervision session takes place at the university in person (or via Zoom) the interns should aim to bring/show a recording of some aspect of their practice to every session. The focus should be the student’s practice and appropriate consents should be obtained. The recordings should be used only for the purpose of supervision. Once used for this purpose they should either be erased or stored in accordance with the employer’s protocols.

Supervision Hours

The course provides a minimum of 1 hour of university based group supervision each week. In additions students will receive individual supervision from the course staff and from their field supervisors. Group supervision must form no more than half of the total supervised hours in each supervisory period. The remainder of the required supervision hours in each supervisory period must consist of Individual supervision. Each session should start with clarification of the agenda for that session. The meetings should include:

  • discussion of professional/ethical issues raised by students and their case work
  • discussion of recent research in the area of ongoing case work
  • discussion of the progress of ongoing practicum work
  • viewing (in the natural setting or by video) the student performing behaviour analytic tasks
  • provision of feedback on practical performance
  • modelling of appropriate behaviour where relevant ongoing evaluation of supervision
  • and setting tasks/goals for follow up at the next session.

Additionally supervisors will help students find appropriate references for their case work, and will help the student critically review those references. Where possible Moodle will be used as a place to provide and share references electronically.

Videos of student's practice

Interns should aim to bring a video or audio recording of some aspect of themselves at work to every university based individual supervision session. The focus of the video should be the student and appropriate consent should be obtained. The videos should be used only for the purpose of supervision. Once used for this purpose they should either be erased or stored in accordance with the employer’s protocols. Short sections of recording can be used – they do not need to be of a whole session.

Group supervision

The weekly group supervision meetings will take place on Monday afternoons from 5 to 6 pm. Students will post a PowerPoint for each of their cases on Moodle prior to the meeting. These should show progress to date and data relevant to each case. Student will highlight at least one of their cases and bring issues up for discussion with the rest of the group.

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Required Readings

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NZ Psychological Society and APS Code of Ethics;

The Behaviour Analysis Certification Board Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behaviour Analysts (

The Behaviour Analysis Certification Board Task Lists (5th edition).

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You will need to have

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Appropriate Settings for Employment

The settings and jobs used to gain appropriate experience must be approved by the university.

The job description must allow the student to undertake the required amount of practice of psychology that can be classified as applied behaviour analysis. The most important aspect of the employment is the opportunity to practice psychology and to learn to apply behaviour analysis principles in changing behaviour and this will be evaluated by the university. There can be more than one employer of position during the course of PSYCH553 (either concurrently or consecutively). The employer must agree to allow the position to be used as part of an internship and agree to the supervisory arrangements. There should be an appropriately qualified onsite supervisor / mentor who can provide regular supervision of the work process and who can help the student learn the agency policies and practices. The employer should agree to allow the student to present work completed while in their employment as anonymous case studies for the purpose of examination. The employer should agree to allow the student to video their work for supervision purposes, provided appropriate consents have been received. Appropriate jobs involve working in agencies, schools, homes, or community settings and include:

  • positions that provide services to students with disabilities and severe and challenging behaviour or for dealing with severe behaviour problems.
  • positions offered by agencies who provide services to people with severe and challenging behaviours or who provide care and support to people with intellectual and other disabilities who require help with behaviour problems
  • behaviour support positions in special schools or special classrooms

Clients and problems

Exactly what types of clients and behaviour problems the student will be exposed to during the course of the internship depends on the places where they are employed. The clients may be people with some form of physical or intellectual disability or psychiatric diagnosis who require help with behaviour problems, or people who require help managing their own or others’ behaviour. In some agencies the clients will be mainly children and young people (e.g., primary or secondary education settings), in others the clients will span the whole age range (e.g., the supported living agencies), and in other the clients will be mainly adolescents and their families. The behaviour problems presenting also depend on the type of agency. The range includes – behavioural assessments (including functional analyses), designing, overseeing and monitoring behaviour change programmes, changing challenging behaviours (e.g., aggression, self injurious behaviour, tantrums), skill development (such as independent living skills, communication, educational skills, health care skills and social skills), and teaching behaviour management skills (e.g., parent, care giver, teacher, and staff training in ABA). If a position offers a limited range of clients and/or problems then either the employer might be able to widen the job description for the course of the internship or the student might be able to find additional (parttime) work with a wider range of clients, or they may move during the course of internship to gain a wider breadth of experiences.

All students taking PSYCH553 and who have been accepted into the PGDipPracPsych(ABA) must apply for registration as intern psychologists prior to starting their 1500 hours of supervised practice, i.e., their internship. Once registered as intern psychologists they do not need to apply for a practicing certificate. 3 There is a fee for the registration process payable to the NZ Psychologists Board (see NZ Psychologist Board website for further information). The form required is on the NZ Psychologists Board website at:

    Once registered students may call themselves “registered intern psychologists” until that time this title may not be used.

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Learning Outcomes

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Students who successfully complete the course should be able to:

  • Display the competencies required of registered Psychologists in New Zealand
    Linked to the following assessments:
  • Display the competencies expected of Board Certified Behaviour Analysts
    Linked to the following assessments:
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How you will be assessed

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Practice hours

For registration as a Psychologist in New Zealand students must complete a minimum of 1500 hours of appropriate practical experience with appropriate supervision to complete their internship and PSYCH553C.

Practice log

For the duration of their enrolment in the course, students must maintain a practice log (either on paper or electronically) in which they must note the activities they performed over the past week and also should note any professional/ethical issues related to those activities. The practice log must be submitted prior to the final examination as part of the work folio. The practice log may either be based on those required by the employer (maybe with some additional details) or it may be designed for the course. At the end of the course it may be submitted as an electronic spread sheet or printed out.

Skill development

The course aims to help students develop skills in the practice psychology and the application of behaviour analysis. Thus one focus is the daytoday practice issues, including assessment and intervention and the professional issues these raise. The students are encouraged to aim to gain practical experience with as many of the tasks outlined by the BACB (i.e., in the relevant BACB Task List, available on Moodle and from the BACB website) as practicable in their placements. As they progress though the practicum they may note which of these they have completed.

Appropriate activities for the Practicum Experience

Appropriate activities are those focusing on the development of behaviour analytic skills related to the BACB fifth edition Task List (see Moodle or BACB web site). Students are encouraged to have experiences in multiple sites and with multiple supervisors. Some practicum placements provide more limited experiences than others (that is, limited types of problems or clients). Regardless of the breadth of experience in the practicum once qualified the professional should always seek supervision when moving to develop new competencies (such as with client groups, types of problems, or types of assessment they have not previously experienced). This should be documented. From the BACB web site:

“Activities must adhere to the dimensions of applied behavior analysis identified by Baer, Wolf, and Risley (1968) in the article Some Current Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis.”

Appropriate experience activities include:

  • Conducting assessment activities related to the need for behavioral interventions,
  • Designing, implementing, and monitoring behavior analysis programs for clients,
  • Overseeing the implementation of behavior analysis programs by others,
  • Other activities normally performed by a behavior analyst that are directly related to behavior analysis such as attending planning meetings regarding the behavior analysis program, or searching the literature related to the program,
  • talking to individuals about the program;
  • plus any additional activities related to oversight of behavioral programming such as behavior analyst supervision issues, or evaluation of behavior analysts' performance.

The supervisor will determine if activities qualify.

Examples of activities that are not appropriate as experience activities include:

  • attending meetings with little or no behavior analytic content,
  • providing interventions that are not based in behavior analysis,
  • doing non behaviour analytic administrative activities,
  • or any other activities that are not directly related to behavior analysis.

In summary, appropriate activities are those that are directed towards selecting, designing, implementing, overseeing, evaluating or monitoring a behavioural program, together with conducting appropriate assessments and with any supervision of these activities.

Direct implementation of a behavioural program.

Frequently Behaviour Analysts work in consultation with the people around the client who then collect the data and implement the behavioural intervention plan. Direct implementation is taken to mean activity that the student does in implementing the program without working through another person (e.g., when the student carries out the plan or records observational data for baselines or during interventions). Here the student would be the person working with the client. However, if part of the behavioural intervention plan is to teach those around the person to carry out an intervention, then doing the training would be seen as direct implementation. In such cases students should be monitoring the effectiveness of their teaching (i.e., the behaviour changes in the people taught) and collecting these data would also be part of direct implementation.

Appropriate Clients

The BACB defines appropriate clients as “… any persons for whom behavior analysis services are appropriate. However, the applicant may not be related to the client or the client’s primary caretaker. Applicants must work with multiple clients during the experience period.”

The PGDipPracPsych (ABA) BACB 5th Edition Task List

We encourage students to gain experience in as wide a range of tasks as possible. Students should aim at completing 75% of the tasks. However, students should only undertake a task if it is deemed appropriate for that client and that referral issue. That is, students should not seek to fit the task list to their clients but should always use the best practice they can for a particular problem. Students must prepare and submit reports on six of the cases, undertaken during the practicum, for the final examination.

Regular attendance at group and individual supervision. Preparation for supervision is required.

Assessment components are as follows:

  • Six case studies must be submitted prior to the final examination.
  • Regular maintenance of a professional practice log. For the duration of their enrolment in this course, students must maintain a practice log, in which they note activities performed and the hours these take. They may also note any professional/ethical issues related to those activities and information on the cases undertaken.
  • CCP for cultural competence. Prior to the examination student must submit their reflective review and continuing competency plan for cultural competence for the 12 month after their completion of the programme.
  • At the end of this course, students will submit their six case studies, their practice log, a summary description of their year’s work including a summary of the major projects and cases completed and of their professional work roles. This should include reflection on the year’s work that includes comment on the ethical and professional issues faced and how these were addressed, the six case studies, and ethical issues faced. The summary may be submitted in the form of a PowerPoint to be presented at the final examination.
  • Final Oral Exam. Students in the PGDipPracPsych(ABA) normally sit the oral examination when they have completed the required practice hours and have submitted all required work for PSYCH551 and PSYCH552. Failure to do this by the set exam date can mean the student must wait to sit the next examination. This may require re-enrolment for a further period if they have not completed the appropriate hours in practice and/or have not competed and/or submitted the required work or hours of supervision. In these cases they must be enrolled until the work is finished and they may sit the next exam offered if they have completed the course requirements by that date. The examination panel, consisting of a psychology staff member associated with the behaviour analysis programme and an external examiner who is experienced in the practice of psychology from a behaviour analytic perspective, will review the students’ case studies and conduct an oral examination. The course staff and a chair will be present at the examination. The oral exam will focus on professional/ethical issues pertaining to the student’s work during the period of enrolment in their internship and on their case studies. Following the oral exam, examiners will reach a consensus pass/fail recommendation to the Chairperson of the School of Psychology.

This course is assessed on a pass / fail basis

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The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 100:0. There is no final exam. The final exam makes up 0% of the overall mark.

The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 100:0 or 0:0, whichever is more favourable for the student. The final exam makes up either 0% or 0% of the overall mark.

Component DescriptionDue Date TimePercentage of overall markSubmission MethodCompulsory
1. Completion of all required tasks and activities
25 Feb 2024
12:00 AM
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
2. Final oral examination
25 Feb 2024
No set time
  • Presentation: In Class
Assessment Total:     100    
Failing to complete a compulsory assessment component of a paper will result in an IC grade
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