Selecting an ABA Supervisor

*Recommended Reading: Selecting an ABA Employer




For individuals seeking to work as a RBT, BCaBA, or BCBA, part of the journey is to receive direct supervision, oversight, and/or training from a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst.

This supervision relationship can (at times) be challenging to find, and it can be even more challenging to find a good fit. Like anything else related to working in this field, Goodness-of-Fit should be prioritized over just meeting minimum requirements.

A low-quality supervision experience will not yield a clinician who is ready for the rigorous demands of succeeding in this field.
The decision to initiate a supervisee-supervisor relationship should be carefully evaluated, and must be approached similar to a job interview.
On a job interview, the applicant is not just looking to impress an employer. There is also a need to gather information about company culture, pay, benefits, evaluation of performance, company vision, etc.

Okay....so then why do so many of us treat the supervisee-supervisor relationship more casually than we would starting a new job??? The selection of an ABA Supervisor can have far-reaching implications on your effectiveness as a clinician one day, which if you ask me, is FAR more important than a simple job interview.

See below for some general guidelines to help you select a Mentor for the supervisee-supervisor experience. I hope they're helpful!

YES, this person should be a Mentor: I use the word Mentor intentionally, because the supervisee-supervisor relationship (ideally) should continue far after certification. Your first big interview post-BCBA certification, your 1st conference attendance or presentation, your 1st promotion or exciting leadership opportunity…all of these events should be discussed and shared with the ABA Supervisor. After all, this person has invested heavily in your future success, shouldn’t they care about how you do once you pass the exam?? It would be odd if they didn’t care.
Similar Career Aspirations & Goals: I get contacted on a regular basis by people seeking BCBA supervision, and I always ask about their future career aspirations. I primarily work in-homes, with children under the age of 5. If my supervisee wants to eventually work as an animal trainer, that is something I need to know about. Obviously, the science is the science. But beyond the science, it is important as a supervisor that I have the experience and expertise to be a valuable resource for my supervisee. Otherwise, a more well-matched supervisor would be a better choice.
Availability to Supervise: This point is critical for anyone receiving BCBA supervision through their current job. Just because you were matched with a supervisor does not mean that person actually has the availability to properly train and mentor you. If the only time you see or speak to your BCBA supervisor is during a therapy session twice a month àYikes. I am not saying to quit your job, but just know that you will very likely need to supplement the supervision you are receiving through work (hire an additional external supervisor), and probably at your own expense.
Suitable Experience Supervising: Yes, the BACB has added more guidelines to ensure that BCBA's who supervise others have the proper qualifications to do so. Which is great. However, it is still important as the supervisee to do your diligence and ask questions about your supervisor’s background and experience supervising. Again, this person will have a far-reaching impact on your career in this field. Wouldn’t you want to know how experienced they are as a supervisor in advance? Or what their supervision style is? Or what their expectations of you are? These are all critical questions to ask, right up front.
Approachable: Lastly, in my experiences even available, highly qualified, and similarly matched BCBA's, can have a cold, overly formal, or condescending demeanor that makes them seem highly unapproachable to supervisees. It’s sad, but it does happen. Just because someone has 30 years’ experience in the field, and has published tons of research, that does not automatically mean you will enjoy being a supervisee to that person. As a supervisee, you should feel comfortable asking your supervisor questions (which many of the RBT’s I talk to are terrified to ask their supervisor questions), stating your opinion, or asking for more help.  If you can’t depend on the supervisor to respond respectfully to your questions, suggestions, or complaints, then you may be working with the wrong supervisor.



* Resources:

'Recommended Practices for Individual Supervision of Aspiring Behavior Analysts'

This blog post gives great information about how Distance Supervision works

For more information about obtaining the RBT credential, or  BCaBA/BCBA certification, see www.Bacb.com

6 comments

  1. Excellent advice! well-timed

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  2. Hello Tameika,
    Can you please write a blog about BCBA's who provide the direct therapies themselves, instead of the RBT's. For example, the pros and the cons, the hours, and also how insurance would provide the payment. I've heard a lot of companies are hiring BCBA's to do the direct work and would love to gain more information about it. Also, would this be an option that parents prefer?

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    Replies
    1. This is a great question. There are many people who pursue the BCBA credential and do not plan to just supervise afterward. I have worked with quite a few RBT's who pass the BCBA exam, and continue working in a RBT role (of course, with the added responsibility of managing the case). Also if looking at educators who obtain their BCBA, many choose to remain in the classroom rather than take the typical BCBA case management position. So it really will depend on what the individual wants to do long term with their career, and what their "dream job" looks like. I would say that parents likely prefer the direct staff to have the highest levels of education and certification (BCBA) but a big barrier to that I encounter is rate. Obviously, when choosing between a BCBA and a RBT there is going to be a large rate difference there. Also, most BCBAs work full-time positions and do not have the availability to do direct. So there are many variables to consider.

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  3. Thanks so much for your reply. For the BCBA's that provide the direct therapies themselves, do you know if the insurance companies pay them an RBT rate? How does this model work with the insurance companies?
    Also, I've read in your blog that you started as a BCBA by working from home. Can you provide some guidance on how you found your clients and whether they were paying through insurance companies?

    Thanks again!

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome!

      I have a resource in my Free Resource section titled "Starting an ABA Practice" that answers many of these questions. I am no insurance expert, so I'd also recommend you reach out to someone in your local area who is credentialed with insurance companies as funders vary greatly from one state to the next as far as what they will cover, what they will pay, etc.

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