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ABA Therapy Part One: What is ABA Therapy?

Applied Behavior Analysis is a field of study that focuses on understanding and improving human behavior. By focusing on an individual and their environment, Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs, who practice ABA Therapy) are able to identify behaviors that are harmful, as well as skills that need to be acquired. From the assessment stage, BCBAs implement a research-based program that helps change behavior or learn new skills, one step at a time.

ABA Therapy has been endorsed by the Surgeon General, and is widely recognized as an effective option.  When I first heard about ABA Therapy, I thought it was exclusively for people with autism. Other people might think it’s only for people with really destructive or dangerous behaviors.  What I’ve learned is that ABA Therapy is an appropriate avenue for many people (stay tuned for more of this in part 3 of this series).


ABA is research-based and data-driven. During the initial assessment, the BCBA studies the individual and their environment closely. This assessment period shapes the form that therapy takes, as well as the goals that will be prioritized. Environmental factors are constantly taken into account, and therapy is shaped based on the data collected.

This is one of the distinguishing factors of ABA Therapy: it is focused on observable phenomenon. This attention to measurable, observable data sets ABA Therapy apart from other areas of psychology. Most of psychology tend to focus on the individual’s thoughts, which are simply not measurable. One of the strengths of ABA Therapy is that it focuses on behavior, which means the outcome is not a matter of subjective interpretation, but of demonstrable fact.


ABA focuses on the individual. This is important for two main reasons. First, this means that each person will receive the best possible therapy. Instead of standard curriculum, they get individualized care that meets them right where they are. Second, this means ABA is valuable to people with a wide variety of needs and goals. People with autism, intellectual or developmental disabilities, and behavior issues can all benefit from ABA Therapy.  We all know that a young person and an older person have different needs and goals. ABA Therapy easily accommodates differences that exist between people.

Goal Oriented

ABA Therapy focuses on identifying and reaching goals. These goals fit into two primary categories: Changing Behaviors and Skill Acquisition.

Changing Behaviors

We will go into more detail on how exactly changes in behavior are brought about in part two of this blog series. For now, it will be sufficient to say that the BCBA identifies problem behaviors and prioritizes the most severe. Next they look into the environmental factors that either prompt or reinforce the problem behavior. Removing or replacing the stimuli in question will often help change behavior in the long term. Again, this is easier said than done, and we will elaborate in more detail in part two of this blog series.

Skill Acquisition

ABA can help people learn new skills, including motor skills, communication skills, academic skills, social skills, and functional skills. Functional skills are skills that someone requires in everyday life, such as bathing or dressing. BCBAs work on learning each skill in manageable steps. All of this happens in the individual’s environment, whether at school or at home.

ABA Therapy is a widely recognized avenue for improving behavior and teaching skills to a wide variety of people. We hope to incorporate this discipline alongside our other services in the near future.


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