What to Look for When Hiring an ABA Therapist

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As Behaviour Analysts, it is our job to put programs and protocols in place for therapists to carry out. This means that a program is often only as good as the therapist implementing it. A therapist who is able to follow programming, take data, and implement protocol is going to be essential to the success of the child.  We’ve gone through many ABA therapists and advised many families in hiring their own therapists.  We’ve seen some amazing therapists and some not as good.

So what should you look for when hiring an ABA therapist?

Previous Experience

Being an effective therapist has to do with a therapist’s level of experience. A therapist can come to us with a stellar educational history and all the right courses and degrees, but the practical experience is what we look for. So much is learned from doing so we want to know what type of ABA work they’ve been doing!  We also look for experience working under a BCBA. We’ve seen some people put “Behaviour Therapist” on their resume without working under a BCBA and getting the right kind of experience (Fyi, this is a no-no!).

Personality Over Education

While the education is important, we’d rather find the right personality and train the ABA theory and knowledge. It’s important for the therapist to be fun, engaging, and able to take initiative while also following directions. A therapist who is boring will likely have a difficult time getting through to a 2-year-old child who is learning in a play-based ABA program. When I have two candidates – one with all the right education credentials and one with the right personality, I would take the personality any day.

Tip: We also look for whether therapists come prepared for a play session with a set of their own novel and exciting toys – it’s a good sign!!

RBT is an asset

The BACB recently came out with a new credential called the Registered Behavior Technician. While this is currently not a requirement, it is considered an asset for an applicant to have. Applicants without this credential should at least be willing to take the courses and become RBT certified

The Child Does the Interview

With any potential therapist, we recommend having them meet and interact with the child they would be working with. A lot can be seen from an initial interaction:

  • Does the therapist greet the child?
  • Does the therapist come down to the child’s level?
  • Is the therapist able to engage and play with the child (with little or no direction)?

We can tell a lot by the potential connection (or not) that we see between the therapist and child. A therapist who struggles with how to play with and engage a child may not be the best fit.

Follow Your Gut

If it doesn’t feel right, it’s usually not right.  You’re entitled to a trial period where you can see how well the therapist is interacting with your child or client.  Make your expectations clear and if you’re not comfortable, it’s better to move on. The ABA therapist is going to be spending a lot of time with their client – it’s worth getting it right!