Behavior analysis and the psychology of operant conditioning is the scientific study of behavior and learning. In the professional realm, behavior analysts study socially significant behavior as well as its relationship to the individual’s environment to better understand why people do what they do.
Applied behavior analysts operate as both scientists and therapeutic practitioners. This leads to a wide variety of specialties within the applied behavioral analysis fields. Career specialties can range from medicine to psychology, as well as marketing and even law.
This means there is a lot that you can do with an applied behavior analysis degree. If you are in the process of earning your ABA degree or you are thinking about becoming an ABA therapist, you might be asking yourself some of the following questions.
What Is A Career In Applied Behavioral Analysis?
Careers in the applied behavioral analysis field are wide-ranging. Most people with an ABA degree choose an area of expertise that can vary from classrooms to clinical settings, educational settings, and even corporate offices. Though a lot of applied behavior analysts do their best work with children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
ABA therapy is considered to be the gold standard for helping children and adults on the autism spectrum to live their best life. ABA therapists work closely with these individuals and their families to address behavioral problems, as well as influence habits and learn to make healthy lifestyle choices.
What Are ABA Specialists?
Within the realm of applied behavioral analysis and operant conditioning, there are several areas of focus where ABA professionals choose to specialize in. This includes things like:
Experimental Behavior Analysis
Experimental behavior analysis is applying scientific discipline to identify problem behaviors, as well as using behavioral modification techniques to address these problem behaviors. This is done by making observations to see what is working and what’s not.
This type of approach has been used to develop a large and highly respected body of research literature that helps therapists of all disciplines to better understand how behavior is learned and how it changes over time.
Since changes in behavior can be dynamic and often require an ongoing process, behavior analysts need to be constantly documenting and analyzing these changes over a broad span of time. Experimental analysis plays an important role in determining how specific behaviors function concerning specific environments or environmental events.
Applied Behavior Analysis
Applied behavior analysis essentially takes the information cultivated from research and then applies it using operant conditioning techniques to solve behavior problems in the real world. This data-driven approach to applied behavior analysis relies on the findings from objective research as well as interpersonal analysis.
The Role of ABA Therapies
ABA therapeutic techniques are designed to implement interventions in a targeted and measurable way. The treatment plan for each patient is based on specific problematic behaviors. This means that the ABA strategy for one patient might include techniques designed to help them simply cross the street safely. For another ABA therapeutic techniques might be used to curtail aggressive behavior, and gradually replace it with healthy social behaviors.
Variables like the population, skill deficits, problem behaviors, and environment are all taken into account by applied behavior analysts when creating a treatment plan customized to the individual. ABA therapy techniques can be used to do things like:
- Increase and maintain healthy behaviors
- Teach new skills
- Improve social interactions
- Increase on-task behaviors
- Reduce interfering behaviors
- Transfer behavior from one situation to another
- Replacing negative behaviors with healthy positive ones
- Restrict conditions to eliminate interfering behaviors
- Increase organizational functioning
- Develop adaptive self-care skills
- Encourage emotional development
- Develop new coping skills
- Play and leisure skills
- Improve family relationships
- Improve language and communication skills
- Boost cognitive functioning
- Increase self-advocacy and independence
- Teach and reinforce safety skills
- Build healthy social relationships
Applied Behavioral Analysis can be translated to a wide range of careers and vocations. For some, an ABA degree enhances their existing career or broadens their scope of practice. For others, ABA techniques are the core of their clinical expertise. This means that an ABA degree and certification can be used for careers like:
Clinical Behavioral Analyst
This type of ABA career uses practical therapy techniques and treatment strategies to work directly with patients who are exhibiting behavioral, social, and developmental challenges. These clinical ABAs also help treat disorders like OCD, ADHD, just to name a few.
Clinical social workers with an ABA degree work directly with at-risk clients who need behavioral support. This often involves an individual who needs help dealing with abuse or trauma. ABA social workers might also need to work with children that have social disorders or perhaps adults suffering from homelessness or addiction.
School Psychologist or Counselor
A lot of School psychologists help support the student body through a wide range of academic, emotional, and social issues. This often involves working with parents and faculty to implement healthy behavioral plans. Many school counselors also play a role in helping the surrounding community during traumatic or highly emotional events.
A forensic profiler with ABA training essentially uses their expert behavioral understanding to process and analyze forensic evidence. These ABA specialists often work closely with law enforcement to piece together the motivations and identity of criminal perpetrators.
Market Research Analyst
ABA specialists can also help organizations and businesses to better understand consumer behavior to meet customer demand, expand their reach and improve long-term sales. This can include using ABA data-driven approaches to do things like analyze purchasing habits, consulting with creative services, developing marketing language, and offering sales forecasts based on demographic data.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Therapist/Clinician
ABA therapy is seen as the gold standard for helping individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder to live their best life. Many ABA therapists have an abundance of passion to work with autistic individuals. This includes doing things like developing tailored techniques within an individualized treatment plan.
They work closely with patients to foster basic skills, while gradually developing the capabilities to perform more complex skills, as well as helping them to develop healthy social skills. These ABA therapists often work in clinical settings, schools, community organizations, and sometimes even in a patient’s home.