What is a Behavior Analyst?
A Behavior Analyst is trained in the science of behavior and specializes in understanding and improving behavior for a wide range of clients. Behavior Analysts are different from psychologists and counselors in several ways. Behavior Analysts do not make a diagnosis or use psychotherapy (talk therapy). Behavior Analysts are focused on solving tangible, well-defined problems with practical solutions that produce measurable outcomes. Behavior Analysts steer away from inner explanations (e.g., ego, super ego, subconscious) and focus more on the external and observable variables that affect a client’s behavior. Behavior Analysts focus on how environmental variables affect a client’s behavior. They also consider how a client’s internal verbal behavior (private events like thoughts and feelings) effect their actions. They use an extensive research-based technology to apply strategies to improve the human condition. They also collaborate and consult with practitioners in a variety of fields. Board Certified Behavior Analysts must use strategies that are evidence-based and abide by a strict code of ethical guidelines.
The Science of Behavior
Behavior Analysis is the scientific study of the principles of learning and behavior. There are three main areas of Behavior Analysis which include Conceptual, Experimental, and Applied. Conceptual Behavior Analysis focuses on the philosophical, theoretical, and methodological issues that underlie the field (i.e., radical behaviorism). Experimental Behavior Analysis involves basic research about phenomena that control and influence behavior. Applied Behavior Analysis is focused on using the scientific principles of behavior to solve practical problems and address the needs of individuals to improve quality of life.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a data-driven behavioral science that applies teaching strategies that result in measurable outcomes for the individual. ABA is an empirically-validated, evidence-based approach backed by over 60 years of research.
Behavior is everything individuals do, think, or say and Behavior Analysis believes we can study and understand behavior just like any other science because it’s predictable. Behavior just like everything else in the universe doesn’t just happen for no reason; there is a cause and effect (i.e., determinism). In order to figure out how to predict a behavior, you have to find its Function – the reason why it is happening. Without knowing why a behavior is or is not happening you can’t effectively improve the situation. Behavior assessments help Behavior Analysts to identify a Function of the behavior just like a blood test helps a Doctor identify what is causing symptoms. Behavior treatment is individualized based on the specific needs of the individual in their unique environment. Treatment techniques rely on the function of the behavior to inform treatment and are based on decades of research using the principles of behavior to guide its application. Applied Behavior Analysis is data-driven, meaning we must measure the progress of treatment to evaluate its effect on the individual client and make treatment decisions based on data. Applied Behavior Analysis looks to the environment where behavior occurs in order to describe, understand, predict and affect change to improve socially significant behaviors (i.e., behaviors that meaningfully affect people’s lives). ABA services focus on improving the human experience by teaching new skills and decreasing challenging behaviors.
What do Behavior Analysts do?
- Conduct behavioral assessments
- Analyze behavior data
- Write and revise behavior-analytic treatment plans
- Train others to implement treatment plans
- Parent and staff training
- Behavior consultation
- Oversee the implementation of treatment plans
- Health Behavior Coaching
- Disseminate the science of Behavior Analysis
Who do Behavior Analysts work with?
The application of Behavior Analysis is very broad because it deals with behavior in all of its complexity and variation as it applies to all humans (and animals).
Applied Behavior Analysis has become the treatment of choice for behavior problems associated with autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities, brain injury, and other mental health disorders. Behavior Analysis has made discoveries that have proven useful in addressing socially important behavior in the following areas: skill acquisition, behavior reduction, education, parent training, classroom learning, toilet training, feeding disorders, habit reversal, phobias, anxiety, diet, exercise, drug intake, criminal behavior, workplace safety, workplace improvement, organizational structures, environmental behaviors and much more.
It is an exciting and growing field. To learn more here are a few resources: