Talk the Talk: BCBAs and RBTs

Talk the Talk: BCBAs and RBTs

Clients receiving ABA therapy are part of a treatment team that is comprised of their family, a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and one or more Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs). Clients and families provide important information about day-to-day lifeimportant cultural practices, long- and short-term goals, and clients interests. Board-Certified Behavior Analysts and RBTs both use their training in ABA therapy to help clients meet their goals, but they have different roles and responsibilities. Keep reading and we’ll outline their contributions to the treatment team! 


Board Certified Behavior Analyst


Technical Definition: A professional who has met the educational and experience standards to design, oversee, and train others on the implementation of strategies and protocols utilized in ABA Therapy. All BCBAs hold graduate-level degrees, have completed supervised field experiences, and passed an exam on application of the principles of ABA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst Handbook, 2021). 


To Put it Simply: BCBA is considered an expert in the field of ABA. They have been specifically trained and certified to determine the function of each target behavior, write behavior change programs, and supervise staff in carrying these out for each client.  


Example: Darius oversees his client’s case. He conducted the intake interview, ran the assessment, and is now writing up the programs that his client will be working on. Darius will also be training his RBTs on the programming shortly before they start services and will monitor them through regularly scheduled supervision appointments.


Non-example: Sarah provides one-on-one ABA therapy for her client. She reports directly to her BCBA, Darius. While Sarah provides programming ideas and suggestions to Darius, she does not make the clinical decisions about whether or not to implement the changes. When Sarah is met with treatment questions from the family, she relays these questions to Darius so he can respond to the family.


Registered Behavior Technician


Technical Definition: Professionals who work directly with clients and implement individualized protocols to help them acquire the skills to lead an independent and successful life. All RBTs have earned at least a high school diploma, completed a 40-hour training course on applied behavior analysis, demonstrated the accurate implementation of commonly used strategies in ABA, and passed a basic exam on providing ABA Therapy (Registered Behavior Technician Handbook, 2021)


To Put it Simply: An RBT is trained to implement behavior change programs written by a supervising BCBA. They conduct regularly scheduled sessions each day with their clients and collect data on target behaviors. RBTs are trained to conduct teaching trials and increase important functional and developmental skills for their clients, while monitored closely by the BCBA on each case. 


Example: Carla completed her 40hr training and just passed her RBT exam. Her BCBA trained her on the behavior plan and skill acquisition programs for her client. Carla works in the clinic with her client and gives the client’s grandfather a daily update on how session went that day. When the grandfather asks what she thinks about introducing a new diet for the client, Carla tells the grandfather this would be a great thing for him to ask the BCBA about. Carla follows up with her BCBA and lets her know the family is considering a new diet.


Non-example: Jason is currently working at a ranch that provides hippotherapy, where autistic individuals ride horses during their sessions. While he uses some behavioral strategies, Jason is not actually providing ABA services. He has not gone through any formal ABA training, nor has he received his RBT credential.