Mentorship for ABA Therapists

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By Tania Duarte, M.S., BCBA

What are some moments in your career that have influenced who you are as a clinician? Do you have a role model? How about a mentor that currently provides you with guidance? Mentoring is a rewarding opportunity for both the mentor and the mentee. It is an invaluable experience that leads to a positive outlet to express concern, look for advice, and learn. For the mentor, it is an opportunity to pass on knowledge and train the next generation of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapists.

Who Benefits From Having a Mentor in the ABA World?

There is a misconception that only Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs), and Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBAs) should receive supervision and mentorship. However, as Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), we can also benefit from this experience. Mentorship is beneficial to everyone in the field. You can’t know it all, and each one of us has our strengths and our weaknesses.

Take a moment to reflect on your current strengths and weaknesses. For example, you may find that working in early intervention and teaching verbal behavior comes easily. Or maybe you find that teaching social skills and decreasing maladaptive behaviors come more naturally for you. What is a skill you would like to improve? Seeking mentorship from someone who has different strengths than you can help you broaden your professional skillset.

Have you ever been in a session where the client engages in many maladaptive behaviors despite your best efforts to decrease them? Or how about a session where you are not seeing the progress and results you have been hoping for? You are not alone; experiences like these are very common. What do you do in these situations? Do you ask for input from fellow BCBAs in your organization? Have you tried requesting a colleague to observe your session? Consider finding a behavior analyst to bounce ideas off of, someone who can watch some of your sessions and give constructive feedback.

Being a Motivational Mentor

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ABA therapy sessions can be extremely draining at times, so it is essential as a mentor to recognize your mentee’s achievements. If you are mentoring someone and only provide negative feedback, how do you think that will impact their motivation? Put yourself in their shoes? Would you come into work excited and energized or unhappy and discouraged? How would this influence your future sessions? Likely, you would not have a positive outlook or perform well. You might eventually consider quitting or leaving the field altogether. There is currently a shortage of ABA practitioners, and companies are struggling to keep quality staff. As mentors, it is our responsibility to keep people motivated and excited about the impact of their work.

What Should be Included in my Supervision Sessions?

Imagine how unproductive supervision would be if all you did was supervise. Good supervision should include mentorship, not just observation. Meaning there needs to be an element of guidance and feedback to improve performance.

Direct feedback is one of the most commonly used methods for shaping staff performance in ABA. However, it is also highly recommended to utilize Behavior Skills Training (BST) when teaching skills. With BST, you give the instruction, demonstrate the skill, have the therapist perform the skill, and then provide feedback on their performance.

Steps to BST

  1. Instruction
  2. Model
  3. Practice
  4. Feedback

A Growing Field

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To meet the high demand for ABA services, the field needs more BCBAs. However, those seeking the BCBA certification need to complete a qualifying Master’s program, acquire supervision hours, and pass the certification exam. 

For candidates applying to sit for the exam in 2022, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) requires unrestricted activities to make up at least 60% of their hours. There are requirements for the minimum and the maximum number of total hours one can count towards their certification per month. Additionally, the experience type (e.g., supervised independent fieldwork, practicum, or intensive practicum) can impact the percentage of supervision hours you need per month.

How Can We Keep Track of Supervision Sessions?


It can be challenging to keep a record of the feedback given during supervision sessions, the number of supervision hours, tracking restricted vs. unrestricted activities, and supervision type. With the OBM Software Catalyst, you can easily keep track of your supervision sessions’ details.

Benefits of Catalyst

  • • You can observe performers in one-on-one or group supervision sessions and meetings.
  • • Easily toggle between forms to collect data on multiple performers.
  • • Designate independent versus group supervision hours to ensure less than half of the supervised time was in group settings.
  • • Designate the experience type (e.g., supervised independent fieldwork, practicum, or intensive practicum).
  • • Track qualifications for those accruing hours towards supervision.
  • • Track restricted vs. non-restricted activities.
  • • Track the method of supervision (e.g., remote or in-person).
  • • Track the progress of BACB ® task list items to ensure your performer’s preparedness for the RBT ®, BCaBA ®, BCBA ®, or BCBA-D™ certification exam.

Learn How Catalyst Automates ABA Supervision

Streamlined employee performance evaluation system designed to help you deliver better patient outcomes. Nurture employee development and accelerate performance through pinpointed goals and data-based feedback.




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