Having a quality practitioner who can connect with your child and family is extremely important for any type of therapy. Identifying what makes a good Applied Behavioral Analysis therapist before enrollment can save you time and hassle while ensuring your child will make the best progress in their behavioral development.
There are going to be both obvious and subtle signs of character you should look for in an ABA therapist when you do your first consultation. The good news is that we’ve compiled a list of what we feel are the most important elements that make a good ABA therapist below, and we hope they help you empower your family to make a great choice.
While there is no absolute guideline or formula for an ABA therapist’s personality and teaching style, we recommend looking for the following traits in practitioner:
True empathy is critical for professional help in the mental health field. Empathy is often mistaken for putting yourself in someone else’s shoes in order to feel what they are going through. In reality, empathy is the practice of understanding someone’s feelings and sharing in support of them. For a child with autism, this can make all the difference in a learning experience.
When you are looking to provide care for your child with autism, integrity will be paramount for a therapist and their clinic. Trust needs to be established from the first consultation, built in the planning of treatment and maintained until completion. Without a true show of integrity in an ABA therapist, it will be difficult to be comfortable allowing them to interact with your child.
ABA therapy focuses on developing behaviors across multiple environments. This means a good practitioner will be working with parents, teachers, and allies alike to make sure the implementations are being reinforced across these spaces.
An enthusiasm for helping others should be a baseline you demand in an ABA clinic. Similarly, the therapist you work with needs to have compassion for their children. A kind-hearted individual will make your child’s experience exponentially better.
There is a specific set of qualifications to be a registered behavior technician, and some clinics require far more training than others. Due to this, the level of education (both general and specific to the field) can vary greatly among ABA therapists. We recommend having an in-depth discussion with your prospective clinic and providers about the level of education they require and have received.
The approach that an ABA therapist takes to all components of their clinic can have an effect on treatment. If their demeanor is inconsistent between parents, children, or their colleagues that can be an indicator that they aren’t fully invested in creating the best environment for their patients. This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be lively or fun — it is the opposite, in fact! However, they should have a firm understanding of how to be appropriate in the situations that demand it and carry themselves as a professional.
One of the key tenets of applied behavioral analysis is tracking data and consistency in behavior. This doesn’t just apply to the treatments and your child; it is also necessary for the practitioner to be consistent in every realm. This will help communication between the both of you, between them and your child, and will help to establish expectations about how they will be administering different treatment plans as they change.
Because there are no one-size-fits-all plans for a child or their treatment, it is important for a quality ABA therapist to be adaptable. Having clear communication about goals and being able to adapt them according to progress or stagnation will make a wonderful learning environment. Additionally, it is reasonable to expect some unforeseen changes in your family, child, or even the clinic environment. Be on the lookout for a therapist who can adapt without disrupting your child and their treatment.
One of the reasons ABA is so successful is that it focuses on long-term behavioral change. The shared goal should always be to have your child be more capable, independent, and confident in their humanistic growth. Having clear conversations with your potential clinic and therapist should let you know how they approach goals and planning for them.
The traits of a successful clinic and practitioner should be apparent to you from your first consultation. The best ones will continue to impress and surprise you with their elements of professionalism, human relations, and treatment plans, and we always encourage consistent communication about your goals.
The most important thing is that you find a therapist who matches your values and goals for your child; this will ensure that everyone comes away from the experience better off.