Behavioral Institute for Children and Adolescents
Rooseville, MN, USA
Industry: Health Care
Field: Juvenile Mental Health
From middle school on, Dr. Sheldon Braaten knew that his career would entail working with children — and he has spent the last three decades doing just that. He first gained experience working as a therapist in a mental health center in South Dakota. Dr. Braaten then served the Minneapolis Public Schools as a special education teacher from 1970 to1993, and followed this with an 18-year stint as the administrator of a special school for adolescents. “I have been working with challenging kids all of my life,” he states. Now holding the position of executive director of the Behavioral Institute for Children and Adolescents (BICA), an institute that provides services for children with emotional and behavioral challenges, he uses his expertise in treating emotional and behavioral disorders to design and evaluate behavioral programs.
With a steadfast goal to help children, Dr. Braaten graduated from Augustana College with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and went on to earn a master’s degree in special education and a Ph.D. in Special Education and Educational Administration from the University of Minnesota. He is the co-founder of the Minnesota Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders and served as the Meeks Distinguished Professor of Special Education at Ball State University from 1997 to 2006. He continues to offer his services to BSU and St. Cloud State University as an adjunct professor. Dr. Braaten is also a member of several professional affiliations so he can keep himself fresh on the field, including the Council for Exceptional Children, the Correctional Education Association, the Association for Behavior Analysis International, and the Council for Children with Behavior Disorders.
Dr. Braaten’s motivation for the past three decades has been to improve the lives of children. The biggest lesson he has learned throughout his time working with children is that one cannot do it alone. “It’s important to develop relationships with peers in your field and maintain them,” he says. “I believe that’s the secret to a long career.”
Conversation with Sheldon Braaten, Ph.D.
WORLDWIDE PUBLISHING: On what topics do you consider yourself to be an expert?
Sheldon Braaten: The social and emotional development of children and adolescents with challenging behavior.
Did you ever consider pursuing a different career path or another profession?
I think I knew from middle school on that I would be doing something with kids. I didn’t know then what it would be, but I always knew it would be something.
What motivates you?
Seeing people succeed and helping them toward that.
Who have been your mentors or people who have greatly influenced you?
A man named Frank Wood, who was one of my advisers at the University of Minnesota. He still calls me and visits me from time to time when he wants to chat. He was my adviser, my colleague and my friend. Also, a woman named Eleanor Gutezloe from the University of South Florida who is now retired. My wife, Barbara, has been a mentor to me as well.
Do you do any public speaking?
Yes, on psychological skills and training, assessment, and behavior management.
What lessons have you learned as a professional in your field?
Giving up isn’t an option.
What advice can you offer fellow members or others aspiring to work in your industry?
Whatever it is you know isn’t going to be enough. It’s a lifelong learning process. They need to know how to develop relationship with colleagues and participate in a supporting organization or group because you can’t do it by yourself.
What changes have you observed in your industry/field since you started?
The knowledge-base has expanded dramatically. The biggest thing is the research; when I started in the1970s basically what we had was a mimeograph machine and not much else. The resources that are available now are phenomenal compared to back then. There are tools today that didn’t even exist 30 years ago. It’s been fun to see the changes.
What is the most significant issue facing your profession today?