Recently we have been asked several
times about "Certified ABA Therapists" or "Certified Verbal
Behavior Therapists" by parents and school administrators.
Additionally, we have had several people apply for consultant positions with us
who have claimed to be a "Certified VBA Therapist". We believe
that knowledge is power and all too often the layperson does not have the
knowledge, or access to essential information, to make informed decisions on
critical issues like selecting a therapist for their child. These issues
are why this article, and all the other articles on this website, has been
There is an easy, unequivocal, and
direct answer to the question "Is there such a thing as a nationally
ABA/VBA Therapist?" The answer is - No.
There is, sadly, a significant need
for trained therapists to work with children with Autism. Because ABA is
the single best research supported treatment for Autism there is a proportionately
higher demand for trained ABA therapists today. However, there are no
established standards for what training and experience a person needs to say
that they are a "trained ABA therapist". The Lovaas Institute
has a very rigid set of standards for their employees and the job titles that
they use. However, the Lovaas Institute employs a very small percentage of
all the "ABA Therapists" working in the US and elsewhere.
There is no certification body or
board that certifies direct therapists in Applied Behavior Analysis or Verbal
Behavior Analysis. There are many, like Reinforcement Unlimited, LLC, that
offer training in these skill sets through workshops, supervision, mentoring,
etc. There are also University-based programs in ABA. However,
unlike the Behavior Analysis Certification Board for consultants at the
Doctoral, Masters, and Bachelors level there is no board that applies criteria
to measuring skills for those working as therapists in these areas. There
are three recognized
credentials in Applied Behavior Analysis that involve approved training (University
based now but years ago many got the BCaBA credential by taking weekend
workshops with a single "Nationally-Known ABA Expert"),
mentoring during an extended period of practical application (working in the
field under the supervision of an established person), and passing of an
internationally administered examination on Applied Behavior Analysis.
These credentials are the BCBA-D = Board Certified Behavior
Analyst - Doctorate which indicates that the person is trained at the Doctoral
level in behavior analysis, BCBA = Board Certified Behavior Analyst (Masters
degree or higher required) which is the independent credential to work as a
consultant, and the BCaBA = Board Certified Assistant Behavior
Analyst (Bachelors degree or higher required) who MUST work under the direct
supervision of a BCBA in order to comply with board requirements.
So, what does it mean when someone
tells you that they are a "Certified ABA Therapist"? Good
question. I have absolutely no idea because there is no such thing
recognized in the field. What this generally tells me is that someone took
several days of workshops, maybe has worked for someone else, and has used
ABA/VBA with children. If this came up occasionally then one might
conclude that it was merely the therapist either not understanding or using
marketing language to convince possible customers of their value as a
therapist. However, these terms are being used more and more by a greater
variety of people. Why is this happening?
We tend to see one source for many
of these claims. We recently had several parents report that a school
district was claiming that their staff were "ABA-Certified".
When asked directly by one skeptical parent the answer was that they had
"been trained by Dr. X, a "Nationally-known" ABA/VBA
Expert". When pressed further the school Autism consultant reportedly
became evasive. Finally, the Autism Consultant admitted that the staff had
taken a 3-Day workshop from the "Nationally-Known
Expert". Does that qualify someone to work as a therapist?
Well, everyone has to start somewhere and getting meaningful training from a
genuine expert ("Nationally-Known" or otherwise) is a good place to
start. However, that is certainly not a great stopping place either.
Disclaimer: Reinforcement Unlimited, LLC offers In-Home,
Clinic-Based, and School Consultation services for ABA/VBA therapy. We
also offer training to parents, professionals, and novices in these techniques
through our Workshop
Program, our Parent
Verbal Therapist Program, and our School
Consultation Program. We do not "Certify" people in VBA/ABA
- we train and supervise them in these techniques. We are proud to be the
first Behavior Analysis
Certification Board Approved Continuing Education provider in Georgia!