Signs of a Bad ABA Therapist



Part of what makes ABA Therapy so cool and fun is that it isn't a typical job. Its definitely not a standard 9-5 office job and is a very unique position to hold (you will find that out when you try to explain to people what you do!).

But regardless of how unconventional the work setting and work hours might be, being an ABA provider has responsibilities and duties that are serious. I've seen new therapists start working with a family and then very quickly those therapists are no longer around. If you demonstrate that you are an ethical professional who takes your job seriously then you will likely work in this field for a long time. If you do not, you could have a very short career.

Here are some tips on what NOT to do as a new ABA therapist. This information will also be helpful for parents who want to know when its time to fire a current therapist.

Signs of a bad ABA Therapist: 
  •  Consistently cancels therapy sessions, arrives late to sessions, or pulls a "no show"- This one is pretty straightforward. You were hired as an ABA Therapist and you and the family/agency set up a schedule together.  Be on time, arrive for work when you are supposed to, and if something comes up call the family and let them know. Simply not showing up or being consistently late sends a message that you are not reliable and that you don't take your job seriously. Especially if you are working with a family with multiple therapists or multiple children, they probably have a very busy schedule. If you miss a therapy session that throws their whole day off.
  • Talks to friends or family about their clients, giving details and private information- As an ABA Therapist what you do for a living is exciting. You may want to talk to your friends, spouse, or family members about the clients you work with. However, this is highly inappropriate and unprofessional behavior. Confidentiality is important as a therapist-provider.  Even something as simple as speaking to the child's teacher about behavior issues at home can be a confidentiality breach unless the family has told you this is allowed.
  • Gets too close to the family, crosses boundaries- For someone new to the field, you probably aren't used to a job  that takes you into someones home. I know this was a very new experience for me when I began in this field. It can be hard to maintain boundaries when you see so much of people's personal lives, being in their living room every day! It is important to remember you are a professional and you are not there to socialize. Don't disclose any personal information about your life that will make it difficult or uncomfortable for you to do your job. Do NOT "like/friend" clients on social media, this is very unprofessional and can make it challenging to keep clear professional boundaries.
  • Has a distant or poor relationship with the family of their client- On the flip side of getting too close to a client's family is being too distant from a family. Sometimes therapists will forget to do simple things like greeting the family when they arrive to the home, or asking the parents how they are doing. You shouldn't just arrive at the home and go straight to work with the child. You are still a guest in someones home and should take a few minutes to greet everyone with a sincere smile and a few words.
  • Vague about salary expectations- Not all providers work for companies, many work directly for families. This can make salary talk difficult, especially if the family is new to having in-home help. Salary conflicts can be prevented by being clear and upfront about what you expect to make before you are hired. Discuss salary raises, supplies/materials reimbursement, sick pay, holidays, etc. These are all questions you should get answered before you start work. If you stay late after a session, is that overtime? If you get ill and miss a session, are you expected to make that session up? If the family cancels a session at the last minute, do you still get paid for the session? Does the family offer mileage reimbursement at all? No family wants to feel as if they are being held hostage by an ABA therapist who keeps demanding more money.
  • Overly negative or critical- Yes, we all have bad days. We are people first. There will be days where you didn't get much sleep the night before and you arrive for a therapy session and the child is coughing all over you. You are allowed to be in a bad mood, however you should leave all of that "at the door" when you arrive for work. Telling a parent "Wow, your daughter is so annoying today", or "I just broke up with my boyfriend, and I'm not in the mood for your son's tantrums" are wildly inappropriate and negative comments.  You can share with the family how the session went without being overly critical or emotional. Instead of "Your son just kept hitting me!" you can say "He had 7 instances of aggression today. Are you seeing that much aggression too?" The second example is more respectful, and also is seeking clarification about the problem behavior.
  • Messy or disorganized - It is common courtesy to clean up the therapy room when the session is over and put things back the way you found them before you leave. If you give the child a snack before the session, clean up the snack when the child is done eating. Take neat and easy to read session notes, and clean up any toys the child was playing with before you leave. The parents shouldn't have to clean up after you once you are done with a therapy session, and you shouldn't leave toys or materials strewn all over their home.
  • Therapist brings children to work- Believe it or not, I have seen this happen. You can't run a session and watch your own child at the same time. When you arrive for a therapy session you are beginning a work shift. If you can't find a babysitter, then you need to cancel the session for that day.


2 comments

  1. I struggle with number6 a lot. I just started 3 weeks ago and I feel like quitting. I do like kids but I do not have much experience with them - i don't understand them nor know how to play with them. And I am very critical of myself and whether do I really want to do this job. The idea of going to sessions gives me a panic attack. Is this just a phase? Will I get over it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there,

      If you have not already, I recommend reaching out to your closest adviser/mentor at your place of employment, or speaking with the BCBA supervisor about your concerns. It could be you need more training or support....or possibly you are being placed on cases without a goodness-of-fit and that's why you feel so lost.

      I also do want to let you know, sometimes feeling at a loss is a sign that you are working for a low quality agency. I recommend reading the post below to assess the quality of your employer. Good luck to you

      http://www.iloveaba.com/2014/12/selecting-aba-employer.html

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