What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied behavior analysis is a scientific discipline that applies techniques based on changing negative or troubling behavior rather than looking for reasons for the behavior. Unlike many other treatments that are only used in a clinic, hospital or similar medical setting, applied behavior analysis treatment is used in various settings, such as school, home and community settings. Although this treatment is often linked with autism spectrum disorder, therapists use this treatment method for other conditions as well.

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What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a method of therapy used for patients with autism as well as patients who suffer from certain psychological disorders. It’s used to improve certain behaviors, such as communications, social skills, academics, reading and also certain adaptive learning skills like grooming, hygiene, fine motor skills, punctuality, domestic abilities and job proficiency. Rather than delve into the patient’s past to determine why an individual behaves in a certain manner, ABA therapy focuses on helping the patient change their behaviors.

ABA therapy is based on proven theories of behavior and learning. In other words, the patient learns to develop new behavior. It’s often connected wtih positive reinforcement and the use of praise or treats for positive behavior. Patients undergoing ABA therapy must be continually evaluated and monitored. In many cases, the patient’s family members and teachers are also trained in ABA so that they can better help the patient.

When is ABA Used?

Applied behavior analysis is used on patients with psychological and certain behavioral disorders; however, it’s most often used as a therapeutic intervention for patients with autism. When used correctly and consistently, ABA therapy helps autistic patients learn new skills, improve social communication and maintain positive behaviors. It can help the patient to transfer the positive behavior from one situation to another and to control a situation that may cause negative behavior. According to Psychology Today, ABA therapy is most effective when it’s started prior to the age of 4 and when it’s used consistently for at least 20 hours per week, .

How to Become an ABA Therapist?

ABA therapists must complete a formal training program. Most ABA therapists have at least a bachelor’s degree in behavior analysis or psychology with a concentration in behavior analysis. Some therapists choose to pursue a master’s degree in behavior analysis. Students in an ABA program may complete courses in autism spectrum disorders; abnormal and clinical psychology; human development and behavior, and screening and assessment.

The students are also required to complete an internship to obtain real experience. Although it’s not required, many ABA therapists obtain certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board by completing the training program and passing a certification exam. ABA therapists with a bachelor’s degree can earn the credential of BCaBA. Those with a graduate degree can earn the Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) credential while those with a doctorate can use the credential BCBA-D.

Applied behavior analysis is a form of psychology, a field that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is expected to grow by 14% during the 2016-2026 decade. With 23,000 new psychology jobs expected to be created by 2026, therapists practicing applied behavior analysis should see some promising career opportunities.