Heather Skeen founded Providence Behavior Therapy in 2019. She is a licensed behavior analyst (LBA) in Texas and a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA). She's been in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) since 2009.
Heather has provided behavior therapy and related services in clinics, homes, community settings (e.g., stores, parks, restaurants), schools, and daycares. Heather has worked with children, adolescents, and adults who have various diagnoses and needs, including: autism, oppositional and defiant behaviors, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), intellectual and developmental disabilities, and co-occuring mood disorders. Additionally, Heather has experience serving the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community and has been learning and using American Sign Language (ASL) daily since 2015.
Heather graduated from Valparaiso University in 2011 with a Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. In 2013, she earned her Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) certificate from Florida Institute of Technology. She became a BCBA in 2014.
Heather Skeen sits down with this local podcast to share more information about her clinical experiences and what PBT is all about. See below for the transcript.
Unknown 0:20 Hey everybody. Welcome back to the central Texas small business spotlight show, season two, Episode 12. I'm your host, Chris Doelle. And this is the show where I get to interview a small business person in each and every episode and learn a little bit about what makes their business tick. My guest today is Heather Skeen from Providence Behavior Therapy. What is that? Well stick around and you'll find out.
Unknown 0:56 All right, everybody join me in welcoming Heather Skeen from Providence Behavior Therapy to the show. Heather, how are you doing today?
Unknown 1:03 I'm pretty good. How are you, Chris?
Unknown 1:05 I'm doing excellent. I get to talk with small business people about their passions. So it gets me fired up.
Unknown 1:14 Yeah, great. Unknown 1:16 So let's start with your background. How, what is your background? How did you get into what you're doing now?
Unknown 1:24 Yeah. So, back in 2009 I had recently started graduate school for clinical mental health counseling. And I was looking for some related job experience. I really hadn't had that much in that field up until that time, so I got some information about this clinic for kids with autism nearby. And it ended up working out and I just fell in love with it. So I've been doing behavior therapy and related behavior support services since that time, so almost 11 years now.
Unknown 1:59 Nice. So for, you gave a clue with the autism, but for people who have no clue what you're talking about, what is behavior therapy?
Unknown 2:09 Yeah, so, you know, I practice a type of therapy called applied behavior analysis or ABA. And really, that's based on the theory of behaviorism which looks at using science to shape human behavior and make significant social changes through that science. So, you know, through observation through the collection of data and really targeting those socially significant behavior so we can help people, you know, make, make important changes in their life and, and increase their independence, increase their access, you know, to preferred things, things they like, being able to go to different places and be more functional in school and just really, overall improve their quality of life. It looks, you know, it can kind of take some different forms. Some services I offer our one on one behavioral therapy. I work directly with the client. I work with clients as young as two through clients in their 50s. But I do specialize primarily in children and adolescents. So, you know, I do a lot of one on one therapy. I also offer social skills groups. I can do parent training and support. So you know, if you have a kid that has a lot of challenging behavior, or you're trying to work on improving their communication skills, things like that, I can offer some support for those families to manage those concerns. And kind of work on those skills. You know, I can work 1:1 in therapy, but it's really helpful too, for those parents to be able to have some tools to address those behaviors and those needs outside of the therapy setting as well. Those are, yeah, those are kind of the common, common ways it works. I also do workshops. So I've been doing some workshops online. And that's been really great, you know, during this quarantine trying to find ways to adapt. So that's been one of the ways I've been kind of working with what I got and doing online workshops.
Unknown 4:13 Well, yeah, well, I will get into that in a second as far as what has changed, but I want to get back to the you mentioned, using science and collecting data. That's not what you think of when you think of therapy. What sort of data is involved?
Unknown 4:33 Yeah, so it depends on the situation and on that specific client, but that is something that sets behavior therapy apart from other types of therapy. Absolutely. So you know, when I go in, and I'm working with a new client, I'm going to visit them I'm going to see, you know, what kind of challenging behaviors do they have? How often do those occur? How long does it last? Do they last for a few seconds or a few minutes? I'm going to try to understand what happens right before the behavior, where are those antecedents that might lead to that behavior occurring? And then I'm also going to look at what are the consequences, what happens after that occurs? Does that person get attention? Or do they get to take a break from whatever's happening, you know, what happens in that scenario, so some making notes, you know, data sounds really formal, but it's really just observation and note taking, and getting some quantification of what's happening. So, you know, if a parent comes to me and says, “I have a really hard time with my kid being aggressive.” So if I go in, and I'm looking at, okay, well, what's that aggression look like? What's that mean? Because that can mean a lot of different things. Right? So are they hitting, are they kicking? How often are they doing that? How long does it last? Maybe there's some specific triggers that lead to the kicking. So just going into in really observing, really analyzing that behavior. That's the best name we could have for sure (as behavior analysts). So really observing what's going on and what affects that behavior? What contributes to that occurring and how can we improve it? For those behaviors that are more challenging, how do we replace those behaviors? So when we better understand those things, then we can we can work on implementing more appropriate and more functional strategy to help those people.
Unknown 6:40 Nice. So I expect that you have to involve the parents, because I would think that not all those behaviors are manifest in a therapy session, but having them tracking and being cognizant of what's going on. Is that a big part it?
Unknown 7:01 you know, it varies a lot from kid to kid, you get some kids that don't have a lot of behavior issues per se, it might be more of social skills or, you know, some coping skills or communication skills. The parents tracking data can be really helpful, but sometimes, you know, you've got to be clever and you've got to be mindful of parents’ time. You don't want to just add something else on their to do list, right, especially now people are feeling really burdened. You’ve got to be creative with how you do that and make it manageable. But that's certainly something we implement when we can. And you're right, you know, if I can, if I can see the kids one on one, and they do great with me. Well, you know that that's wonderful, but if they're still having lots of issues at home, the parents are the people who deal with them the most. So, parent training is really about giving those parents the tools they need to be successful with managing their child's behavior and being a able to enjoy their time with their child, work through things, and learn if there are some different strategies to use to improve their communication and help them with their relationship. That's definitely what we're all about. That's a huge component.
Unknown 8:13 Nice. And we'll get in the weeds here a little bit. So, people, when they have the measles, they have the measles. It's, it's either they have it or they don't. Things like autism. You hear the term on the spectrum bandied about so if you could help explain how people can be aware that that is something that's going on, because they may not be aware, I would think at some point.
Unknown 8:45 The official diagnosis now is Autism Spectrum Disorder. So it's a very wide spectrum. Some people on one end maybe have a little language or ability to communicate, they might have a lot of behavior issues and might not be very independent. And if you go the other end of that spectrum, you get kids or adults who, in a lot of instances may be indistinguishable from typically developing or neuro-typical peers. So, you know, maybe they just don't have eye contact as much or, you know, sometimes are labeled as a little more socially awkward.
Unknown 9:27 There's a wide spectrum that manifests in really different ways. So it would seem to me that that's where someone like you comes in very handy is become help confirm or deny or refute what people are thinking.
Unknown 9:42 I like to think I’m very good at recognizing when someone has autism. I feel like, you know, I'm very good at recognizing that but I am not allowed or permitted with my type of licensure to diagnose anyone. So that has to come from someone that’s a licensed physician or a psychologist or someone, someone with that type of terminal degree like an MD or PhD or something like that. So, you know, I've been working in this field for over 10 years, I have worked with a lot of different people, different ages, different skill levels. So I do feel like you know, I have a strong understanding of how autism can manifest in different ways. I've been doing this type of work for about 10 years. I just opened Providence Behavior Therapy about eight months ago.
Unknown 10:33 And what was the onus behind taking that leap and saying, okay, I want to open this business?
Unknown 10:39 Yeah, a couple of different things, the culmination of a few different things, but starting my own practice was something I had thought about for many years. And it really worked out this past fall. You know, I was leaving my last company and trying to find something that really fit in Well with my family and our schedule, and the flexibility I need for my son who's five. And I just thought, alright, this is the time. I've been waiting to do figure our when I can, and now seems like the most opportune time. So I chatted about it with my husband and we figured it out. And that's what I've been doing now since November.
Unknown 11:21 Nice. And then shortly thereafter, the COVID situation hit. And yeah, the world sort of went into turmoil. talk about what has changed for you because of that. Unknown 11:36 Yeah, so since March, I think end of March maybe, I decided to do strictly telehealth or online services. Which isn't easy, but you know, I just thought it was, I thought it was the best thing to do for lack of a better term. I just thought was the best thing to do. You know, one thing you want to be mindful of is the people I tend to work with, if they get sick, it's not like, it's not as easy for some of those people to go to the hospital as it is for the rest of us. You know, I work with kids and adults who have some really challenging behavior. They have some really negative histories with going to the hospital being around people in masks, you know, it's new, it's confusing. It can be scary. So I thought it was especially important to be respectful and mindful of if, God forbid, you know, I got someone sick or They got me sick. You know, I didn't want to pass that along. And then, you know, be the reason someone had an extra traumatic experience going to the hospital. So yeah, so since about March, I've been doing online things like I mentioned earlier, I got a little ahead of myself. I've been doing some workshops online. I've been able to do different topics like tips for managing challenging behavior, which you know, is not just geared for kids with autism or developmental disabilities or any kind of clinical diagnosis, there are tips that you know, you can use if you have a toddler, or maybe you have a strong willed child, or even a teenager, anything like that. The point is to make it, you know, behaviorism is great. And it's not just for people that have special needs, or autism or ADHD or anything like that. It can benefit all of us. So these workshops have been a great platform for that. So, for example, I've done one and I have another upcoming workshop this month on toilet training. And then I also have a free monthly support group for parents of kids with special needs. And I do that online, twice a month. I do one group in English and then I do the other one in sign language because I have been learning and using and continuing to improve my American Sign Language or ASL skills.
Unknown 14:10 Excellent. Excellent. So how can people find out more about you? What website do they go to? Where can they see the seminars? Things like that?
Unknown 14:21 Yeah, so you can go to my website at Providencebehaviortherapy.com. I'm also on Facebook, and I'm on Instagram. And I've been A little stressful this week. And I haven’t posted as much. But in general, I post on there pretty regularly about upcoming events and workshops and various things going on.
Unknown 14:48 So I guess on a positive note, what have you seen from either COVID or what's going on in the US right now? What have you seen, what takeaway Do you have That is positive that people can turn to?
Unknown 15:05 Ah, great question. You know, for me personally, I'm a, I'm a pretty existential person. So I think things happen, and they might be really terrible And they might be really difficult. But I feel like it's sort of our responsibility and it's worth our while, to figure out what good can come from this. You know, what, what can we learn from? what can we do better? How do we adapt? I think adapting is key. So, you know, what are some good things that are hopefully coming from this pandemic? Well, hopefully people are able to prioritize things in their life. You know, we have a lot more, at least for my family we have been fortunate to have more time, together, prioritizing our health, different things like that, and, you know, hopefully, embracing some positive changes that we'll come up., hopefully, you know, there are some things that stay. that some of these changes persist after we go back to whatever our new normal is going to be like, you know, being flexible with people who need to stay home for their kids or for their own health or whatever. So I think really just, you know, trying to find things that have improved or made us feel more connected with each other, just different things like that. I think trying to find some meaning out of all of this is, is what keeps me going and I think that's a good strategy to use.
Unknown 16:33 I love it and, and you got to love the year move to telehealth, because that's probably one of those things that you had planned to do down the road anyway. And now it just got you to do it.
Unknown 16:45 Yeah, and you know, there's a really good positive outcome from that as well because, you know, honestly, before this, people were kind of reluctant. it seemed kind of like a hassle and especially if you work with insurance, which I don't at this time, but There's just a lot of hoops you have to jump through. So that's something that's been nice. And I think that's something in our field in particular that will stay around is this telehealth, which just increases people access to services. you know, you think of people who, who are maybe further out of kind of a metropolitan area. Now different people now they can access these things like my parents support group as well. People don't have to be local and people don't have to find babysitters. So, yeah, it's really nice. I think, you know, there are a lot of things to take away that while this is certainly terrible, and it's you know, the casualties and all of that is awful. What have we learned? How can we how can we do better after this?
Unknown 17:45 I love it. So, so right now the countries of the world are going through their own behavior therapy.
Unknown 17:53 Yeah, yes—exposure therapy. Its definitely a traumatic time. Yeah. And you know, I mean to do a little bit better is all we can do. we're all figuring it out together for sure.
Unknown 18:11 Amen. Heather Skeen Providence Behavior Therapy, I want to thank you so much for sitting down with me and sharing some of your inspiring story.
Unknown 18:21 Yeah, awesome. Thank you so much.
Unknown 18:33 Once again, I want to thank Heather Skeen from Providence behavior therapy, for sitting down with me sharing a little bit of her story and the really great work that she does. I am so happy to be able to learn about her. And I'm so happy that you are here to join me as I learn more about these businesses. I want to thank you folks for tuning in and and giving me what I consider just a very valuable gift—your attention. I also want to thank the following supporters whose donation made this show possible. fluoro renaissance of Austin stellar energy solutions. Cory pack State Farm Insurance. Chris Wilder Edward Jones financial advisor Letty Sanchez, am executive consultants. Bob spray with legalshield Square Pat. Oh Tom Patrick fort, Hays County physical therapy, lay some beef company, Willow gardens yoga, capital city automotive premiere cuts and Realty Austin. I'm your host Chris Doelle reminding you to please go out and support small business and keep it real.
Unknown 19:58 To learn more about how Chris can help your company get more customers. Call 71326946 to zero or visit us on the web at fresh MediaWorks.com