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What is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst?

By Donn Saylor
Updated May 17, 2024
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A board certified behavior analyst is a mental health professional trained in applied behavioral analysis who has been accredited by the Behavioral Analyst Certification Board (BACB®). Applied behavioral analysis, also known as ABA therapy, is a school of psychotherapy that treats patients by controlling and predicting behavior based on a system of positive and negative reinforcement; it is widely used to treat autism. A board certified behavior analyst is someone whose credentials have been verified by the certifying board, which can open the door to learning experiences, new clients, and peer networking.

There are two certifications an aspiring board certified behavior analyst may qualify for. If he or she possesses a master's degree, the first step to receiving full accreditation by the board is already accomplished. There are, however, additional factors taken into consideration. These include a minimum of 1500 hours of work experience in the field, both supervised and independent; alternately, an applicant may have one year as a college teacher or a doctoral degree that was achieved at least 10 years before the application to the BACB® board.

If the individual possesses a bachelor's degree, he or she may qualify for the certification of board certified assistant behavior analyst (BCaBA®). This level requires 135 hours of classroom instruction and 1000 hours of fieldwork. For both levels of board certified behavior analyst certification, a testing process is a mandatory part of the certification procedure.

A board certified behavior analyst, often referred to as a BCBA®, may work with the hospital, agency, or other employer, or he or she may choose to work in private practice. Medical settings, government agencies, and schools all employ BCBAs®. A BCBA® working for him- or herself treats clients independently and is often granted more freedom in his or her therapeutic approach.

There are several functions carried out by a BCBA®. This includes the conducting of behavioral assessments, which lay the groundwork for all future work with the client. The BCBA® develops treatment plans for each individual client and takes into consideration each client's unique needs. The BCBA® implements these plans and ensures they follow the protocol laid out by the theories of ABA and the licensing board. He or she also defines intervention methods that are appropriate for the client in order to curtail negative behavior and enforce positive behavior.

Additionally, the BCBA® is called upon to utilize his or her resources and consult with other professionals in the field. This may not be necessary in every case, but it is a helpful option for many in the community to feel supported and to gain a different perspective. The BCBA® is regarded as an ethical model of the entire ABA process.

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