What Type of Professional Oversight Do Applied Behavior Analysts Have?

Applied behavior analysts are degree-holding psychology professionals who are qualified to practice applied behavior analysis (ABA) and related forms of behavior modification therapy. Behavior analysts can work with a wide spectrum of patients in a clinical environment or serve as specialists who focus on a specific issue or area, like youth diagnosed with autism. Since their work directly impacts the long-term health of patients, behavior analysts practice under varying degrees of professional oversight depending on their location, services, and patient demographics.

Related resource: Top 15 Best Applied Behavior Analysis Online Programs

State Requirements for ABA Practitioners

Behavior analysts are among the many types of therapy and medical care providers that are licensed and regulated at the state level. Every state government in the United States has its own rules and agency responsible for overseeing licenses within their borders. Some states have minimal or no specific requirements regarding behavior analysts, while others have a comprehensive and specific structure in place to regulate the practice. Many states recognize the standards set by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) and the certifications they award to successful applicants.

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Board Certification for Behavior Analysts

The BACB is the primary national organization that oversees various occupations within the behavior analysis profession. The board issues several types of credentials depending on the education and qualifications of the applicant. Currently, applicants can pursue certification as a registered behavior technician (RBT), board certified assistant behavior analyst (BCaBA), board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) or analyst-doctoral (BCBA-D). Applicants must complete an assessment, examination and meet the minimum educational requirements to be considered for certification. All certifications require periodic renewal, which usually entails the completion of a new assessment and examination.

Reporting on Standards and Ethics

In order to keep their certification through the BACB, behavior analysts also need to follow their standards regarding practice and ethics. Certified analysts are required to self-report any incident that could impact their professional status or potentially qualify as a violation of established rules, according to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. The board also accepts reporting from other parties who believe that a certified practitioner conducted themselves inappropriately or may lack the qualifications to retain their current position.

Supervision of Technicians and Assistants

Registered behavior technicians (RBTs) and certified analyst assistants must work under the supervision of a certified professional. While the BACB allows technicians and assistants to act as the primary point of contact and therapy for patients, they are not allowed to diagnose conditions or design treatment plans. The board allows the overseeing certified behavior analyst to delegate responsibilities at their discretion based on the experience and ability of support staff. However, the certified analyst overseeing a team is responsible for designing treatment plans and is ultimately accountable for the implementation of therapy with patients.

Applied behavior analysis has become a staple of modern practical psychology, particularly when dealing with social and developmental disorders. This is just one of the many factors fueling a national trend towards recognition and oversight of practitioners to ensure that patients receive a basic standard of care for mental, emotional and behavioral health issues.