1st Day On the Job
What's so Great About Being an ABA Therapist
I have already done a post for parents, giving tips on how to choose from the massive options/choices and select a quality ABA provider.
Lately I have been receiving lots of emails from ABA therapists wanting to know if there are any signs or clues that they are working for a poor quality employer.
While I am happy to share some of my not-so-great experiences in this field to hopefully help someone else, it does suck that so many people who genuinely want to learn about ABA and enjoy their job are NOT having that kind of experience. Hopefully this post will help shed some light on this issue, and maybe even cause some of you out there to move on to other opportunities.
First, there are some general complaints that ABA staff usually have about their employers that aren't exactly unique or rare. The complaints I definitely hear the most are: lack of hours/no stability to schedule, lack of support or feedback from management, ineffective communication/lack of communication between different departments, too much driving, erratic schedule (lots of gaps in your work day), if the client cancels/gets sick you don't get paid, parents don't follow the treatment plan, low starting pay/no raises unless you obtain certification, physical harm/injuries/getting hurt on the job, intimidated into signing a commitment contract/no-compete & non-solicit agreement, and no benefits.
Do you have some of these complaints about your current employer? Well, trust me you are not alone.
Here are some guidelines provided by the BACB regarding direct staff ABA positions:
- The Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) credential (which is now active) is a certification available for direct ABA staff. I think I speak for many BCBAs in this field when I say I am SO excited to see this new credential, to provide more accountability for direct level staff. RBT eligibility can be found here.
- Most ABA programs use a tiered service delivery model where a BCBA or BCBA-D designs, oversees, and supervises a treatment program that is implemented by 1 or more direct staff.
- Caseload assignments should match the skill and expertise level of the direct staff.
- Pre - hire or during the orientation process, initial training should be provided.
- Post hire, quality of implementation should be monitored on an ongoing basis through regular supervision.
- Sample job requirements for direct staff include: diploma or 2 year degree, criminal background check, TB test, CPR/1st Aid certification, basic ABA methodology training, written and oral role plays or learning scenarios, observation implementing protocols, opportunity to collect data, and pass integrity checks/evaluations.
So above I listed the biggest complaints direct staff usually have about their job, and like it or not, some of those issues will be present no matter where you work. Unfortunately, they come with the job. However, now I will talk about Red Flag issues that are not common, to be expected, or "the norm". If these types of things are happening, it may be time to move on.
Indicators of a Poor Quality Employer
- I have seen some very poorly written job ads that may have just a sentence or two about what the company wants from applicants, but no information about the company. Or job postings that clearly are just following the "warm body" formula. This is how I refer to staff: client matching that just says "You're available from 2-4, so is this client, there you go....that's your new client". No consideration is made for the type of clients you have expertise and experience with, your personality, the client's personality, your level of comfort or your clinical interest, and what the parents of the client want in a direct staff person. Clearly that company needs to staff a case, and that is all that matters.
- You have a supervisor....kinda. What I mean by this is the supervisor rarely shows up to your sessions, never responds to your phone calls or emails, does not support you, does not train you, shifts their responsibilities onto you, etc.
- Be wary of a very fast or molasses slow interview process. Either the company is just hiring anyone (see "warm body" formula above), or the company is disorganized and inefficient and that is why you have to go through 9 separate interviews. I had an experience with one company where 6 different people called me to interview me for the same position, and each time they asked me the same questions (very stale, generic questions). Disorganized much??? If anyone interviewing you comes across as rude, unpleasant, cold, or arrogant.....really bad sign. Remember, you will eventually be working with these people and if this is their first impression? Not good.
- If there is a vague training process, or NO training process, or if you don't have a direct supervisor at all ---->bad sign. There are companies where you get hired, get a caseload, and just start working. That is not proper on-boarding to a new position and a new company. What is more typical is maybe your first few days are spent with HR/admin issues, like paperwork and learning how to complete time-sheets. Then you move into clinical training which can be in an office or in the field, and should include content based training as well as shadowing. You should have the opportunity to ask questions and to meet with or at least speak to your supervisor before you start on any cases.
- So my top red flag is if you are just flat out being lied to. Lets call it "catching the employer stating non- truths". You were guaranteed mileage reimbursement but turns out: there isn't any. You were reassured you would have all morning hours but turns out: you don't. You were told you would receive a $500 sign on bonus but: you didn't, and no one seems to remember telling you that. Some companies will make huge, grandiose promises during the interview that they have no intention of ever keeping. Unfortunately, when this happens most people are scared of losing their new job so they just stay quiet about it. Don't be that person! Speak up for yourself, be assertive not aggressive, and point out these discrepancies as soon as possible. Ask how this issue will be resolved, and make it clear that you will not work for an employer you cannot trust.
*Resource: Glassdoor.com has reviews of companies, including information about typical salary and what the interview is like. Its a good idea to do some research online at a site like this before you consider working somewhere, just to see what current and past employees think of the company.
* Free handout to help you evaluate the quality of your employer.