If you’re wondering how to pursue a career as an ABA therapist, the first step is to acquire your bachelor’s degree in either early childhood education or psychology. Technically, you can move into a certificate program from there, if you choose, however; another option is to earn a master’s degree or PhD in psychology with an emphasis in ABA. Once you earn your ABA therapy certification, graduate level credentials may supplement your resume.
There are two available certifications for applied behavior analysts, they are a BCaBA (Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst) and a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analysis; BCaBA certification only requires a bachelor’s degree while BCBA certification requires a master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis. In order to earn BCaBA certification, an applied behavior analyst is required to undergo ABA therapy training consisting of at least 1,000 hours of work in the field, 135 hours in the classroom, and pass an examination. BCBA certification requires practitioners to spend 1,500 hours in the field, put 225 hours in the classroom, and pass an examination(1).
There are a number of techniques and strategies therapists employ to help their clients. The first and most obvious of ABA techniques involves analyzing what motivates a client and finding ways to use that motivator to produce an intended result. Does praising the client make them want to accomplish more? Do they prefer to handle a certain item or engage a certain activity? Whatever their preference, once these motivators are identified they can be used to positively reinforce any activity a therapist or a family deems worthy and possible for that student to accomplish.
Verbal Techniques- Another therapy method uses visual or verbal stimulus, like a picture or a word to indicate to the client that they should perform a certain behavior. For example, if someone new walks into a room, the therapist can say, ‘what do we say to new comers,’ and the client should have learned that the appropriate response is “Hello.”
Environmental Stimulus- Still one more ABA strategy involves placing students within a natural environment, outside of the classroom or the home where a new and unique background stimulates their interest. But it’s not simply about stimulating the client, it’s about teaching them to use what they have learned in a different setting.
All in all, becoming an ABA therapist may be a rewarding and fascinating line of work. Though a great deal of education is needed, the result both for the student and for oneself may be worthwhile. For the student, the introduction to simple behaviors can drastically enhance their quality of life. For the therapist, the theoretical and practical application of ABA therapy may be fun and captivating.