What to Look for in a BCBA

March 25, 2020

While all behavior analysts had to meet the same requirements to become certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), similar to doctors, each Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) has a uniquely different set of experiences and skillsets that make them more adept to work with certain client populations and less adept to work in others. In addition, since your BCBA will be working closely with you and your family to bring about positive behavioral change for your child and for your family, it is especially important that you feel comfortable with this person. 

Angela Pao-Johnson

AnswersNow BCBA

While all behavior analysts had to meet the same requirements to become certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), similar to doctors, each Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) has a uniquely different set of experiences and skillsets that make them more adept to work with certain client populations and less adept to work in others. In addition, since your BCBA will be working closely with you and your family to bring about positive behavioral change for your child and for your family, it is especially important that you feel comfortable with this person. 

Here are five things to look for in a BCBA working with your family:

1. Be sure the BCBA you are working with is experienced in the areas that you are seeking assistance. For instance, if your primary concern is that your child has a highly restrictive diet due to resistance with trying novel foods, ensure your BCBA has the skill set to support you. Ask them about their previous set of experiences and if they’ve worked with individuals that are similar in age and skill level as your child.

2. Do a gut check - do you feel comfortable with your BCBA’s communication style and how they interact with you and your family? Building trust is crucial in this relationship - your BCBA will be guiding you through your child’s program and you may be working intimately with this individual on very trying issues. Given that you will have many touch points, are you comfortable with their style? Some BCBAs are very hands-on and will role-model expected behaviors for you. Others prefer a more conversational approach. Remember- the most progress will be made when you can build a collaborative relationship with the BCBA in charge of your child’s program. It is good to check that your approaches align.

3. Is your BCBA able to explain concepts in a way that is easy to understand? Many treatment plans are written in heavy behavior analytic jargon. This sometimes is counter-productive. A BCBA that is skilled will be able to use terms that you understand and introduce you to new concepts in a way that is easy to comprehend. They should provide examples that make these concepts relatable to you.

4. Will your BCBA be coordinating care with others on your child’s team? Your child may have speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, teachers, or others. Your child may have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or be on medications that may affect their mood and behavior. The BCBA working with your family should be meeting as needed or even routinely with all the crucial components of your child’s team. This helps to ensure that all your child’s therapies are consistent and that all components of your child’s life are taken into consideration. 

5. How accessible will your BCBA be? Ask them how often they will check in with you and the behavioral team. Typically, a BCBA oversees one or more behavioral technicians that work consistently on your child’s program. The behavioral technicians will implement the program alongside you and your family, under the direction of the BCBA. It is important that the BCBA provides supervision at a 1:10 supervision to direct therapy ratio -- this means that the BCBA is present with your child for a ratio of 1 hour for every 10 hours of direct therapy time. In addition, as you have questions, you should feel comfortable asking your BCBA as these questions arise. Are they available and responsive via phone, email, and/or text? 

The BCBA working on your child’s team is your partner in your child’s program. It is important to have a partner that is skilled, collaborative, and one with whom you have great rapport. 

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Angela P.

AnswersNow BCBA

Specializes in:

Communication skills, adaptive living skills, social skills, problem behavior reduction, school-based issues

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