After a loved one receives a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it is normal to feel confused about the available care options and which one may be suitable to address your child’s needs successfully. ABA care and behavioral therapy are two different approaches you may hear from your medical providers when discussing options for treating symptoms of autism. But what is the difference between ABA care and behavioral therapy?
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a teaching program that uses positive reinforcement techniques. In this method, the therapist presents a stimulus, and when the client achieves a desired behavior, they receive a simple reward like praise, a hug, a small toy, or their favorite meal. This training helps children improve their social skills and address their challenging behaviors. Behavior specialists in Applied Behavior Analysis therapies design personalized programs and use strategies and techniques to enable individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to learn the skills they need for independence and a better life.
On the other hand, behavioral therapy addresses mental health disorders by identifying and assisting in changing unhealthy or potentially self-destructive behaviors. An example is depression, a condition individuals with autism are more likely to experience. A behavioral therapist may use various behavioral therapies to modify behaviors, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, classical conditioning, systematic desensitization, and aversion therapy.
While not all behavioral therapists work with ABA therapy, all ABA care providers are certified behavioral therapists specializing in behavior analysis.
To streamline your search and provide reliable information, ABA Centers of Florida has created this guide to understand better what ABA care and behavioral therapy entail, their distinctions, and their benefits. This guide aims to assist you in delving deeper into the approach that may be most beneficial for your child and your family’s needs.
What is Applied Behavior Analysis?
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is considered the gold standard therapy for treating autism. ABA therapy is firmly grounded in scientific research, spanning over four decades, demonstrating its effectiveness in managing autism symptoms.
Unlike other forms of therapy, ABA care doesn’t focus on changing a person’s perspective, opinions, or reasoning but aims to modify behaviors that hinder their adaptation to their environment. One of the core techniques of ABA is the reward system, or positive reinforcement, which motivates the patient to increase the repetition of positive behaviors until they become habitual.
It is essential to mention that all ABA care providers are behavioral therapists. ABA therapy must always be administered by behavior specialists who tailor a plan to each child’s needs, adjusting as necessary to ensure progress. Many insurance providers cover these therapy sessions, and can take place at home, in school, or at a medical center. Consistency and involvement from parents and caregivers are essential for better learning outcomes in ABA approaches.
Professionals involved in ABA therapy, including Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), must obtain accreditation from The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), Inc. BCBA certification signifies a high level of expertise in behavior analysis. BCBA professionals primarily focus on assessing, analyzing, and developing behavior intervention plans based on ABA principles. They often work with individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) or other developmental or behavioral challenges.
ABA therapies also involve Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs), who work under the guidance of BCBAs and follow the guidelines of the therapy plans designed by BCBAs. They must also complete training and accumulate practice hours working directly with clients before they can provide therapy without the supervision of a BCBA.
What is Behavioral Therapy?
Behavioral therapy is a therapeutic process that aims to modify erroneous interpretations of reality that lead an individual to engage in unwanted or maladaptive behaviors. Behavioral therapy seeks to transform a person’s beliefs, feelings about the future, self-image, and interactions with the world. Behavioral therapists employ various strategies to modify maladaptive cognitions to mitigate unhealthy behaviors and emotions.
A behavioral therapist is a professional with expertise in treating mental disorders like anxiety, phobias, addictions, and depression. The behavioral therapist and the patient collaborate to overcome unhealthy behaviors.
Behavioral therapists employ various therapies to address behaviors, the most common being Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT effectively treats depression, anxiety, substance abuse problems, eating disorders, marital difficulties, and other mental illnesses. Numerous studies demonstrate the effectiveness of CBT in enhancing patients’ functioning and quality of life.
Behavioral therapists may also work with ABA. However, they do not necessarily do so, as these professionals employ various techniques depending on each individual’s needs and goals, such as CBT, exposure therapy, systematic desensitization, behavioral modification, flooding, behavioral rehearsal, behavioral contracts, parent training, and more.
Behavioral therapists, while professionals specializing in behavior modification, do not necessarily hold a BCBA certification. They may include professionals from diverse backgrounds, such as clinical psychologists, counselors, social workers, and others who incorporate behavioral techniques into their therapeutic approaches.
Differences Between ABA Care and Behavioral Therapy?
ABA care and behavioral therapy play distinct roles in addressing behavioral challenges but are closely connected. Here’s an overview of what each offers:
Applied Behavior Analysis:
- Structured Approach: ABA plans are developed based on the principles of behavior analysis, which involve evaluating and identifying target behaviors. In ABA programs, therapists establish specific goals and a step-by-step plan. ABA seeks to understand the root of challenging behaviors before modifying them.
- Data-Driven: ABA therapy plans collect and analyze data to inform decision-making. The therapists use data collected during sessions to monitor progress, adjust the plan, and ensure that everything is evidence-based and effective.
- Personalization: BCBAs tailor ABA plans to the unique needs of each client and their family. They address weaknesses and aim to empower and foster the individual’s strengths. ABA plans can address various behaviors associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental issues.
- All ABA care providers are behavioral therapists: BCBA-certified professionals must also hold a BACB certification to practice within the field of ABA, thus ensuring comprehensive and professional care for their clients.
- Intensive One-on-One Intervention: ABA therapists provide one-on-one intensive therapy sessions, particularly for children with autism. These individual therapy sessions can last several hours a day and continue over an extended period.
- Involvement of Parents and Caregivers: ABA therapies often involve the participation of parents and caregivers. They learn the techniques and strategies therapists use to address their kid’s challenging behaviors and promote positive behaviors in daily life.
- Long-Term Planning: ABA plans typically have long-term goals and a structured timeline to achieve them. ABA plans ensure that progress is sustained over time, allowing the child to continue developing new skills and reducing problematic behaviors.
- Behavior Management: Behavioral therapists possess the necessary skills to manage challenging behaviors, such as aggression, self-injury, or repetitive behaviors.
- Addressing Various Disorders: Behavioral therapists can address behavior management in individuals with ADHD, depression, anxiety disorders, and other behavioral and psychological difficulties.
- Diverse Educational Backgrounds: Behavioral therapists may have various educational backgrounds and may not necessarily hold a specific certification in behavior analysis. Their training and qualifications can vary depending on their profession and area of expertise.
- Analysis of Underlying Causes: Behavioral therapists analyze the causes of conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and mental health disorders to assist individuals in learning new and healthier behaviors.
- Utilization of Various Techniques: In behavioral therapy, the therapist can select techniques for behavior modification that may not necessarily be ABA. Behavioral therapists can employ techniques such as CBT, which is familiar and effective for behavior modification, exposure therapy, systematic desensitization, and more.
While ABA care and behavioral therapy may have some overlap, each approaches behavior disorders differently and specializes in distinct areas of expertise. ABA care primarily focuses on addressing the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder, whereas an individual with depressive disorders may better suit behavioral therapy. However, ABA care and behavioral therapy can collaborate, especially when individuals with autism also experience depression or another mental illness. ABA therapy specializes in autism, and professionals providing ABA care plans must always be behavioral therapists certified in behavior analysis. In contrast, not all behavioral therapists work with an ABA approach, have a more diverse educational background, and address a broader range of mental disorders.
ABA Centers of Florida and ABA Care
At ABA Centers of Florida, we understand that finding the best option to ensure your child with autism learns essential life skills is crucial. ABA care and behavioral therapy can assist in addressing different needs.
Our ABA therapies focus on teaching social and communication skills that enhance your child’s quality of life and alleviate the burden on caregivers, thereby promoting independence. Additionally, we aim to empower children with autism to gain self-confidence, allowing their strengths to flourish and helping them discover activities they are passionate about, leading to a happier life.
With our ABA care, children with autism and their families can rely on a team of behavioral therapists specialized and certified in behavior analysis, including BCBAs and RBTs. Our team provides high-quality services and maintains ongoing communication to foster learning and progress. Moreover, at ABA Centers of Florida, you can find a supportive community for families with neurodivergent children, where our goal is to enhance the quality of life and opportunities for children and adolescents with autism and their families.
Our in-home ABA therapies can also help reduce the anxiety symptoms frequently observed in children with autism. However, if your child exhibits signs of depression, we encourage you to seek complementary assistance from behavioral therapy.
If you’re interested in learning more about our ABA care and our services for children and adolescents with autism, please call (772) 773 1975 or visit our website to complete the form and have your questions answered.