Behavior Therapists

Who can Provide Behavior Therapy?

A variety of mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors and special education teachers can provide behavior therapy. Not all are trained specifically in behavioral therapy but the minimum requirement to practice each discipline includes at least a master’s degree from an accredited college or university and state licensure. In some cases, there may be therapists certified in one particular technique (e.g. ABA therapists).

A behavior therapist may perform tasks that include:

  • Conducting a functional assessment or functional analysis of any problem behavior to determine why the problem occurs.
  • Developing an intervention plan, based on the functional assessment or analysis results, that addresses the factors in the child’s physical and social environments that contribute to the problem, and aims to change those factors.
  • Training caregivers or teachers to implement the intervention plan.
  • Observing the people implementing the intervention and providing feedback.
  • Modifying the plan as needed to ensure its continued effectiveness, based on the measured progress of the child.

Some behavior therapists will have a private practice, but others may work for private or public programs or services. They may provide services in schools, community settings or homes.

Some aspects of therapy will vary depending upon whether it is provided as a continuing part of a school service, as an intensive treatment service, or as a service provided through a hospital, private, or university group practice.

Behavior therapy in many cases is short term, with highly-focused sessions. However in some conditions, such as autism spectrum disorders, applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy is often recommended for 25-40 hours per week.

Where can I Find a Behavior Therapist?

Often, state and local early intervention programs for children under the age of three provide behavior therapy. Parents may have the option of having that therapist come into the home to observe and help manage difficult behaviors related to family life. Very often, if a challenging behavior occurs with older children in a school setting, with consent of the parents, the school district will bring in a behavior specialist they feel is qualified.

Behavior therapists may also be found through local hospitals, clinics or universities. Again, since credentialing is tricky, the key to finding the “right” therapist is more of an art than a science. One option for finding credentialed individuals with training in behavior analysis is to go through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, which has a “find a therapist” section on its website. In some cases, your child’s pediatrician, developmental pediatrician, psychiatrist or neurologist may be able to recommend a behavioral therapist.

In some cases, families may have funding via their health care insurer for behavioral therapy. If this is the case, they may need to use a therapist who is on their provider panel.

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