What Does a BCBA Do?

I’ve been in the field a long time, since 1998 to be exact. When someone asks me what I do, I want to say “do you want the long version or the short version?” A Board Certified Behavior Analyst, or a BCBA, as defined by the BACB, is an individual who has received a graduate degree, completed coursework in Behavior Analysis, and has completed countless hours of supervised practical experience, and lastly, has passed the BCBA examination. A Board Certified Behavior Analyst has certification in applied behavior analysis (ABA). BCBAs work in schools, hospitals, clinics, homes and similar settings. 
After years of school and studying for the exam, a BCBA’s overall job is to create, individualize, maintain, evaluate, and supervise a learner’s ABA program and the team of RBTs (Registered Behavior Technicians) that work with the child. Each day is spent maximizing the learner’s potential in socially significant ways. As we all know, behavior consists of both positive behavior and negative behavior. As BCBAs, we work on skill acquisition., i.e teaching skills that we identified are deficient based on assessment, as well as behavior reduction for behaviors that are maladaptive. 
The concept of social significance is what I love most about our field. Our treatment involves that which is significant to the individuals involved and changes their lives. That means that we go into the learner’s setting: homes, schools —  and different environments where they need help, such as the dentist, barber and large crowds.That’s very different from other professionals who might have you come to them. We want to go and see where the issue is happening so that we can make changes that are going to be socially significant for the individual.  Some of the daily tasks of a BCBA are outlined below:

  • Supervision of therapy sessions: The BCBA will spend time doing direct supervision of sessions. The BCBA will model new programs, address questions, review data with the RBT, provide feedback, and just play and engage with the learner and the RBT.
  • Caregiver support: The BCBA will also spend time one-on-one with parents and caregivers. This includes reviewing programs and data, setting new goals, discussing strengths and challenges, problem-solving, and creating goals for the adults to work on with the learner at home.
  • Updating cases: BCBAs also make sure learners receive the best care possible outside of face-to-face sessions. Outside of the time they are directly supervising sessions,  they are revising treatment plans, updating goals, reviewing and analyzing data, preparing program materials, and creating staff training materials. They are constantly and carefully assessing the overall quality of the ABA program for each learner.
  • Meetings: BCBAs meet with their supervisor weekly to check in on all cases, problem solve, and receive ongoing training. They will also meet with the learner’s team to provide a space for collaboration and idea-sharing.
  • Collaborating with other providers: When given the opportunity, BCBAs will attend IEP meetings and collaborate with other providers such as Occupational Therapists, Speech-Language Pathologists, pediatricians, and teachers that also work with the learner. This helps ensure that they know everything there is to know about the learner and share progress as a team.
  • Research: BCBAs spend countless hours researching behavior analytic literature to stay updated on the most effective and safe ABA practices. They collaborate with mentors and colleagues to solve problems and plan the most compassionate ways to approach learners.

So what does a BCBA do? As you see, there are a lot of things that we do as behavior analysts, and the implication that we only work with kids with behavior issues is just not true.  In summary, there’s a lot that we do as BCBAs. Essentially we change behavior.; and there are a lot of tools that we use from our toolbox to help change socially significant behavior in kids and adults alike! Watch the video for more information: What does a BCBA do? (Behaviorbabe) – YouTube