Applied Behavior Analysis: An Overview

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What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA), in its broadest and most pure sense, is using B. F. Skinner’s discoveries and principles of behavior to understand behavior at a very deep level. If you’ve ever wondered, “why’d he do that?” An applied behavior analyst has your answer to that question, as well as any human behavior question. This lends ABA to be a field with wide applications. It can be applied to everything from sports and the workplace to education, to severe mental illness and even politics.

Behavior analysis is less about changing an individual person’s behavior and more about changing environmental context. For example, if an applied behavior analyst is working with a business, it’s not about, “we’re going to make your employees do what you want them to do.” It’s much more about, “you need to change your business practices and set up the reinforcements in your environment, to increase the kind of behaviors you want to see your employees do more often.” ABA is about changing the environment to help people meet their outcomes.

ABA Applications

Within ABA, there are a number of sub-specialties. Students can leverage what they learn in the program courses to their specialty area. After learning core ABA concepts, they get experience by applying those principles in the setting that matches their interests, career goals and areas of expertise.

The core of ABA is helping individuals or organizations reach their goals. They help answer the question: What big outcomes do you want in your life or business? It might be things like, “I want to get my bachelor’s degree” or “I hope to someday become a board-certified behavior analyst and help people.”

These would be considered broad outcomes. Those trained as applied behavior analysts can look at some smaller target goals to help the person achieve their broader goals. Applied behavior analysts can help set up the environment to best support the behavior that the person needs in order to reach the outcomes they’ve set for themselves.

How to Become an Applied Behavior Analyst

There is a series of courses that are approved by applied behavior analysis international to meet the educational requirements to sit for the board-certified behavior analyst certification (BCBA) to become a certified applied behavior analyst. This series of courses is referred to as the verified course sequence (VCS) in applied behavior analysis (ABA).

EKU offers a number of paths to an ABA certification depending on your educational background. Students without a master’s degree can earn a master’s in general psychology, with a concentration in applied behavior analysis, which includes the VCS. This will provide graduates with the educational component needed to sit for the BCBA certification.

If a student already has a master’s degree, they can take just the VCS. This allows people interested in re-specializing in ABA to gain the educational requirements needed to sit for the exam.

The ABA recently opened up the requirements to sit for the exam to anyone that has a master’s degree in any field and has completed the VCS plus some supervised experience. It is preferred for those earning their master’s degree in psychology with the ABA concentration to have some background in psychology coursework including an introduction to psychology class. However, an undergraduate degree in psychology is not required.

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