Firstly, please note that the term ‘Behaviour Therapist’ does not in itself ensure that an individual has essential knowledge, training and experience in ABA.  Employers, parents and other consumers need to ask about professional accreditation. As with any treatment regime dealing with vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, individuals with developmental difficulties and various others, care needs to be taken regarding the professional qualifications of anyone implementing ABA programmes.

The Behavior Analysis Certification Board is the internationally recognised body that sets professional standards and ethical guidelines in the field (see www.bacb.com). These standards protect consumers of ABA services and also help direct and protect professionals themselves. Behaviour analysts are also guided by ethical codes applicable to psychologists (e.g. Psychological Society of Ireland [PSI], 2003; American Psychological Association [APA], 2002).

The International ABA community aims to promote behaviour analysis as a scientific basis for the development of proficient, safe and effective interventions for individuals, communities and societies. It is strongly recommended that only those with appropriate qualifications provide ABA services that involve independently designing, implementing and supervising interventions. All others assisting in the provision of ABA services require direct supervision from a qualified Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA).

Further information on professional qualifications and ethical guidelines can be obtained at:

Behaviour Analyst Certification Board – BACB
Psychological Society of Ireland – PSI
American Psychological Association – APA

For more information see:

What is a BCBA?

A BCBA (Board Certified Behaviour Analyst) is recognised internationally as a fully qualified behaviour analyst. This qualification requires a primary degree at third level and a Master’s degree in methods of ABA which usually takes two years. The Master’s degree normally involves: ABA coursework and a research thesis; specialised training; supervised practical experience in real-world settings; and a certification examination at the higher level.

The BCBA accreditation indicates capacity to design and supervise interventions independently for a wide range of individuals or groups, however, a BCBA should always operate within the sphere of their competence and experience. Continuing education is essential for maintaining this accreditation and a BCBA must retain evidence of conventions, courses and workshops attended throughout their professional career.

What is a BCaBA?

A BCaBA (Board Certified Assistant Behaviour Analyst) is international recognised as an Assistant Behaviour Analysis. A BCaBA qualification indicates a significant amount of specialised training and education in the methods of ABA; however, the BCaBA is a lower qualification than the BCBA. The qualification requires a primary degree in a third level institution and specialised training in ABA methods at postgraduate level for approximately one year. This involves coursework in ABA, supervised practical experience in real-world settings, and a certification examination at the associate level.

The significant difference between a BCBA and BCaBA qualification is that a BCaBA is not qualified to work as an independent practitioner; however, he or she may assist a BCBA in designing and supervising interventions. A BCaBA should operate under the supervision of a fully qualified BCBA and this is particularly important when treating individuals with severe challenging behaviour or self-injurious behaviour (SIB). Continuing education is essential for maintaining this accreditation and BCaBAs must retain evidence of conventions, courses and workshops attended throughout their professional career.

What is a BCBA-D?

This qualification is similar to the BCBA qualification, except for the following. The BCBA-D (Board Certified Behaviour Analyst at Doctoral Level) has achieved a doctoral level degree in ABA or related field in human service and has ten years post-doctoral experience working in ABA, or has taught ABA at university level for two years.

What is a Ph.D. in Psychology?

A Ph.D. is a fourth level educational qualification that subsumes approximately seven years study and includes conducting research of a standard that is publishable. A Ph.D in psychology means that the individual has studied psychology for both the undergraduate degree and the postgraduate doctoral degree. The title of Doctor cannot be awarded to a psychologist who has taken a primary degree in another subject and not in psychology. This is designed as a protection under EU legislation because a psychologist is likely to work with vulnerable individuals. A psychologist may be familiar with ABA methods, but cannot be assumed to be an expert in ABA unless he or she has satisfied all the requirements set forth by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board it terms of coursework and practical experience.