The success of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy does not solely depend on evidence-based ABA methods or consistent therapy sessions. It also hinges on the collaboration of various professionals to create a plan that best supports the children we serve. Besides the crucial involvement of the family and client, the expertise of the board-certified behavior analyst and other ABA therapists is central to the implementation of an effective therapeutic plan.
In the field of ABA, there exists a number of ABA professionals with specialized roles and competencies. Understanding these distinct roles is helpful for families looking into behavior therapy as well as individuals contemplating a career in ABA.
In this article, we will discuss the different types of ABA therapists including the board-certified behavior analyst, learn about their requisite skills, education, and training, and explore how each role uniquely contributes to the child’s plan of care.
1. Behavior Technician
Behavior technicians play a big role in implementing behavior interventions and recording behavior data during therapy sessions. They work directly with the child, provide support to their families, and collaborate with the ABA team. Behavior technicians keep everyone informed about progress, setbacks, and any modifications to the intervention plan. They are able to demonstrate evidence-based strategies in real-time which allows caregivers to observe and later replicate these techniques at home or in other settings.
While formal certification isn’t always mandatory for behavior technicians, they receive comprehensive on-the-job training and supervision to prepare them for the role. Many behavior technicians eventually pursue certification to become Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs).
To qualify as a behavior therapist, a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work, or a related health/science field is often preferred. However, specific qualifications can vary, with many employers placing more value on a candidate’s genuine interest in helping children with autism than on educational background.
2. Registered Behavior Technician
Much like behavior technicians, Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) primarily contribute to the implementation of behavioral strategies and communication with the team. RBTs set themselves apart by completing a 40-hour training program, undergoing a competency assessment administered by a board-certified behavior analyst supervisor, and successfully passing the RBT certification exam.
To maintain their certification, RBTs are required to pass the Renewal Competency Assessment each year.
3. Board-Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst
Board-Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBAs) possess a higher level of training and can practice more independently compared to RBTs. BCaBAs provide behavior-analytic services with supervision from a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). They can gather and assess data related to patient behavior, develop intervention strategies, and execute treatment plans. BCaBAs also provide supervision and training to behavior technicians and Registered Behavior Technicians.
As with any other certified ABA professional, becoming a BCaBA also involves taking and passing the certification examination. In order to sit for the BCaBA exam, one must have completed a bachelor’s degree, a set of approved coursework, and hundreds of hours of supervised practice.
To maintain a BCaBA certification, one will need to complete at least 20 continuing education units within each two-year recertification cycle.
4. Board-Certified Behavior Analyst
A Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) has the capacity to work autonomously as an ABA practitioner. They are able to provide a range of services from direct ABA interventions to behavior analyses. In their supervisory capacity, they manage individuals working to obtain fieldwork hours for certification, such as trainees, RBTs, and BCaBAs. As an assessor, the board-certified behavior analyst conducts and oversees evaluations of those pursuing or maintaining RBT certification to ensure competence. In their role as trainers, they may provide the mandatory 40-hour training for RBTs or supervise those tasked with providing this training.
To become a board-certified behavior analyst, one must have completed a graduate-level degree and passed the BACB exam.
5. Board-Certified Behavior Analyst – Doctoral
Board-Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral (BCBA-D) is a doctoral-level certification in the ABA field. A BCBA-D is trained at the doctoral or postdoctoral level but functions in the same capacity as a board-certified behavior analyst.
If you wish to pursue the title of a BCBA-D, you are required to meet one of the three requirements: (1) complete a doctoral degree from a program accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International, (2) complete a doctoral degree from a non-accredited program and conduct a behavior analysis-related dissertation, or (3) complete relevant postdoctoral practical requirements and publish at least two peer-reviewed journals with a focus on behavior analysis.
BCBA-Ds must maintain an active Board-Certified Behavior Analyst certification.
What Skills Should an Effective ABA Therapist Have?
There are a number of interpersonal and professional skills that set apart exceptional ABA therapists from the rest. These skills can range from teachable knowledge to innate personality traits. Understanding these core competencies may be helpful to someone looking to start a career in ABA.
1. Empathy and Compassion: The ability to understand and be sensitive to the feelings and needs of both the client and their families is a very important skill to have as an ABA therapist. For individuals with autism and their families, the journey can be filled with moments of frustration and confusion. A good behavior therapist can recognize these emotions and offer comfort during these challenging times. This emotional intelligence allows the therapist to build strong, trusting relationships with the client and their family.
2. Strong Communication: An ABA therapist should be able to effectively convey strategies, progress, and challenges to families and other members of the team. Effective communication involves actively listening, recognizing the concerns and questions of both the client and their loved ones, and providing comprehensive and understandable responses. It also means fostering an open dialogue where families feel empowered to share observations, express apprehensions, and seek clarifications.
3. Ethical Integrity: A good behavior therapist adheres to the professional and ethical guidelines set by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). They always act in the best interest of the client. This means being transparent, honest, and accountable in all interactions to ensure that the therapeutic environment remains trusting and safe.
4. Data Collection and Analysis: In the field of ABA, data doesn’t just inform the process – it drives it. Therapists must be able to accurately observe and quantify behaviors to track progress. Analysis of this data helps ensure therapy remains effective and tailored to evolving needs. Continuous data documentation offers transparency about a client’s development and allows therapists to adapt their approaches as needed.
5. Teamwork and Collaboration: Often, an ABA therapist is part of a larger team of professionals. Working well with others ensures cohesive and effective care.
ABA therapists possess a multitude of skills that go beyond this list. While these competencies can be honed through education and training, the essence of an outstanding ABA professional is a compassionate heart. Having a deep sense of concern for their clients is what genuinely differentiates exceptional practitioners in this field.
ABA is a rewarding profession that allows you to make a difference in the lives of individuals with autism. All it takes is a solid foundation of theory, a strong set of technical skills, and interpersonal skills – all of which are needed to carry out all the responsibilities that come with being a behavior therapist. As an ABA professional, every day is an opportunity to provide compassionate care and help individuals hit significant life milestones.
ABA Therapists of Ujala Life
Ujala Life takes great pride in our team of ABA professionals. We have highly qualified and experienced ABA Therapists who are strongly dedicated to helping children with autism in our care.
As the demand for ABA Professionals increases, the field is also expected to grow even more rapidly in the coming years. We are always looking for ABA therapists in New Jersey who will grow with us as we continue to provide compassionate services to the community we serve. If you are ready to jump-start your ABA career, Ujala Life is hiring at our location in Union, New Jersey.
We’re also offering internships and fellowships to inspire employees to upskill and shape potential ABA therapists. Ujala Life’s goal is to provide part-time (morning shift or afternoon shift) or full-time training opportunities to students who have the potential to become board-certified behavior analysts.
- Undergraduate students in a relevant field exploring a career as a board-certified behavior analyst in New Jersey.
- Will work as RBTs.
- Biweekly BCBA 1:1 mentorship.
- Graduate students enrolled in an ABA program, actively pursuing BCBA.
- Spend half of their time on casework AND the other half on floor supervision or receiving supervised independent fieldwork (SIF), practicum (P), and intensive practicum (IP) supervision.
- Receive more supervision hours than interns.
If you’re interested in becoming a board-certified behavior analyst, we would be happy to answer any of your questions.
Contact us today for more information!