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10 Things Every RBT Should Know

The Registered Behavior Technician plays the most critical role (in my opinion) in the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy service delivery model.  The RBT is assigned to work one on one with clients daily and implements programs for the client to acquire new skills, maintain skills, and decrease problem behaviors.  The RBT is juggling many tasks-data collection, providing reinforcement, planning out work sessions and various other tasks throughout their session.  RBTs are the critical piece to client progress.  In many online forums, I've seen RBTs who are unclear and ask questions about their certification and role, so I decided to create a blog post so that all RBTs have a little more knowledge about their credential.  

1. Your RBT credential belongs to you.

Once you earn your RBT Credential, it is yours. You are responsible for ensuring that you know your responsibilities as a certificant and how to maintain your certification. Your certification is not agency specific. You can take it with you to a new company.

2.  Your credential needs to be renewed annually.  

Know your renewal date and submit needed paperwork atleast 2 weeks in advance. When you renew, you will need to submit a competency assessment and pay the renewal fee to the BACB.

3. Use your personal email address to create your BACB account.

Your personal email address should be used to create your BACB account. Do not use a company email address to create or manage your account. You should be the person in charge of your BACB account.  If the employment relationship ends for any reason, you want to have access to and control of the email address that was used to create your BACB account.

4. Supervision should be tracked by you, monthly.

It is your responsibility to track your supervision. Each day that you work, make sure that you are tracking your hours and how much supervision you receive. Request supervision when you need it to remain in compliance.

5. Five percent of your hours should be supervised.

The BACB guidelines are very clear that RBTs should be supervised for 5% of the hours that they provide ABA Therapy.  For example, if you work 100 hours per month, you should be supervised for a minimum of 5 hours for that month.  

6. Keep your supervision documentation for 7 years.

You need to keep your supervision papers for 7 years. The BACB can audit your supervision paperwork at any given time.  You want to make sure that you can account for it.  The best way to store supervision documentation is to scan it to yourself and save it to an electronic file. When you are audited by the BACB, you have 7 days to submit your supervision documentation.

7. You can not be an independent contractor.

RBTs do not meet the IRS guidelines to work as independent contrators. RBTs are provided direction and work under the supervision of a BCBA or BCaBA. RBTs are only permitted to work as a W2 Employee and will have taxes withdrawn from their checks.

8. You should not purchase program materials/supplies.

As an employee, your employer should provide you with the tools that you need to complete your job. These tools include reinforcers, program stimuli, data collection sheets (printing, copy paper, ink) and pens/pencils.  If you do have to purchase reinforcers or program materials, the cost for these items should be reimbursed to you.  

9. You should be trained in crisis management procedures.

RBTs who work with aggressive clients should not wear bruises or injuries as a badge of honor. This should specifically not be the case if these injuries were caused due to no crisis management training being provided by the agency who placed you with the aggressive client. A Behavior Plan is not enough if a client displays behaviors that are a threat to themselves, others in the environment, destroys property, or who elopes.  For client and RBT safety, behavior plans for target behaviors that involve a risk to personal safety should have some form of physical management training requirement for the RBT.

10. You should be reimbursed for mileage between clients.

If you are using your personal vehicle to drive between clients, your company should reimburse you mileage for driving. If your company does not reimburse for driving, you are still able to record miles you have driven and write them off on your taxes each year.

As a Registered Behavior Technician, you are changing lives and affecting positive change.  Make it a priority to learn and to grow as much as you can in your role. An added bonus (#11) is that there is a career path you can follow as an RBT into becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst or a Board Certified assistant Behavior Analyst.  For more information about your RBT role or a career path in behavior analysis, go to


Documents and Resources

Many qualified BACB certificants supervise, train, assess, and/or oversee individuals who are working toward BACB certification or providing behavior-analytic services. This oversight occurs in three primary roles:

Overview of Qualifications by Role

* Some of the tasks associated with this role may be delegated to qualified and proficient assistant assessors or trainers with oversight from the BCBA or BCaBA who is responsible for and signs off on the assessment/training.
** These individuals must meet additional requirements. Visit the appropriate handbook to learn more.

8-Hour Supervision Training

Supervisors who oversee the work of (a) individuals acquiring fieldwork (i.e., experience) for BCBA or BCaBA certification and (b) current BCaBA or RBT certificants who are required to have ongoing supervision must complete an 8–hour supervision training based on the Supervisor Training Curriculum Outline (2.0) before providing supervision. The curriculum outline is comprised of the learning objectives, tasks, and considerations needed to create an effective supervisory relationship. This training may be provided by any Authorized Continuing Education (ACE) Providers or Verified Course Sequences.


Supervising RBTs

Assessing RBTs

Training RBTs

Supervising BCaBAs

Supervising Trainees

Requirements for Those Applying in 2022 or Later

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So, you want to become an RBT!
(a Task Analysis)    

That's great news - the field of behavior analysis needs passionate, scientifically-minded, and committed folks who are interested in helping others. But how the heck do you become an RBT?


First - what is an RBT?

RBT stands for Registered Behavior Technician - a paraprofessional in behavior analysis who has received a credential from the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB) to indicate a baseline level of competency at behavioral services delivery.

RBTs often work directly with clients and provide most of the day-to-day service delivery, freeing up analysts to do other work. The BACB describes RBTs as individuals qualified to implement a behavior plan designed by a behavior analyst, but only under the supervision of that analyst or other qualified analysts. The RBT credential was first offered in 2014, and there have been progressive revisions to the RBT process since it's inception.



The job expectations of an RBT are rigorous. Some of the individuals that RBTs may work for will exhibit serious or dangerous behavior, and RBTs may work with these individuals for hours at a time.

The technical expectations of the job are numerous, and varied. RBTs may be expected to implement task analyses, assist with functional assessment, implement verbal skills training, and collect & measure behavior before graphing it.

RBTs are required to write session notes, create case notes, and collect accurate data on behaviors of interest. To do this, they may also require some training / experience with basic software, such as using spreadsheets (Excel, Google Sheets, etc.) or specialized practice management software.

They are also expected to behave professionally and ethically, sometimes in trying scenarios where the correct choice may not be clear. The Board has an ethics code specifically for RBTs.

There has been a massive influx of individuals becoming RBT certified over the past few years. As of this posting in July 2018, there are over 28,000 BCBAs, 3,000 BCaBAs, and 37,000 RBTs registered with the BACB. As shown on the right, an RBT in 2018 will most likely be working with children or adults with a diagnosis of autism (ASD). This will likely be the case for awhile as the research in applied behavior analysis continues to investigate applications that may make behavior analysts more effective at serving those with autism.


Common Duties of an RBT:

  • Working directly with clients receiving behavior analytic services
  • Collecting and graphing data
  • Receiving supervision from a certified behavior analyst
  • Ongoing competency training


Behavior Analysis, as a profession, does not yet offer fully nationally recognized licensure in the US. The BACB, itself, is a recent advent - it was created in 1998 to "protect consumers of behavior analysis services worldwide by systematically establishing, promoting, and disseminating professional standards" (BACB). Since it's inception, the BACB has created various levels of certification to:

  1. Ensure quality of services delivered
  2. Minimum competency standards
  3. Standardize training for analysts
  4. Protect consumers from the unqualified

This is no small task, and over the years, the BACB has imposed increasingly more rigorous requirements on applications for the various certification levels. Many states have adopted licensure, but there are still many states that have not yet made licensure for available for behavior analysts. The different levels of certification offered by the board - RBT, BCaBA, BCBA, BCBA-D - all require different, progressively more difficult, levels of mentorship and an increasingly difficult examination.


OK, I'm ready - how do I become an RBT?

Before you can apply to become an RBT, you must first be able to satisfy the following requirements:

118 years of ageYou gotta be an adult
2High-School DiplomaGotta have a high-school diploma (or equivalent)
3Complete a 40-hour behavior analytic training

The instruction should be aligned with the RBT Task List.

This training can be done online - you can search Google for a training course, but it's recommended that some or all of your training be done in person with a BCBA in the type of setting you expect to work in.

You MUST receive a 40 hour training certificate at the end of your training. The BACB will require you to upload a copy for their records.

4Obtain a Responsible Certificant

You need a BCaBA, BCBA, or BCBA-D to agree to provide supervision ongoing supervision. You can change your responsible certificant, but you must always possess at least one in order to provide service.

You will need their CERTIFICATION NUMBER to register for your exam.

5Complete the RBT Competency Assessment with a certified analystA certified analyst needs to observe your work with a client and complete the RBT Competency Assessment as you demonstrate mastery of each item on the checklist.

Once you meet these requirements, you have ONE FINAL REQUIREMENT: you will need to sign up for and pass the RBT exam.


Registering for the RBT Exam:

To register for the RBT exam, you must create an account on the BACB's website. Once you create an account, the next thing you'll need to do is click the "RBT" tab to begin the sign up process.

STEP 1: Click the RBT tab
Click the RBT Tab to begin registering for the RBT Credential
Once you create an account, the next thing you'll need to do is click the "RBT" tab to begin the sign up process.


















STEP 2: Select "Apply for the RBT Credential"
Select the "Apply for the RBT Credential"













STEP 3: Ensure your personal information is correct, then click continue

STEP 4: Fill out the professional information details:

  • Emphasis of your work? (e.g., Behavior Therapy)
  • Primary Area of Work? (e.g., Autism)
  • Primary Age Group of Clients? (e.g., Children)

Step 5: Enter your educational information (highest level you've earned)

Step 6: Upload your 40-hour Certificate of Completion that you got for completing your 40 hour RBT training.

Step 7: Upload your RBT Competency Assessment

Step 8: Upload your Diploma (high-school, college, etc.) or Transcript

Step 9: Enter your Responsible Certificant's Certification Number

Step 10: Contact your responsible certificant and tell them to check their email - they will need to verify that they approve of your application.

STEP 11:

Once your certificant verifies you, you will need to log into your account to complete your application, like so:

Step 11: Click the RBT tab again and select "Complete Application"
Select "complete application" to continue











STEP 12: Read the terms & conditions + click "agree"

STEP 13: Double check - is everything accurate and correct?

STEP 14: Click "checkout"and input any card information needed to pay for the cost of your application

STEP 15: Wait! You'll get an email from the BACB with further instructions, depending on whether your application was approved or not:

  • Good News! Your application was approved!
  • Bad News! You need to fix something!


If your application was approved...


STEP 16: In your approval email, make note of your BACB ID Number

STEP 17: Follow the link to Pearson VUE's website which will ask you to create an account, using your BACB ID Number

STEP 18: Click the RBT - Registered Behavior Technician Exam when prompted to select an exam.

STEP 19: Click Schedule Your Exam and, again, input your payment information (yeah, it sucks you have to pay for the exam)

STEP 20: Study! I have practize quizzes right here on this site, for free, because you've already paid enough money at this point.

STEP 21: Show up on the date of your exam, take the test, and pass. You'll do great!

STEP 22: Treat yourself to something nice, like ice cream (positive reinforcement is always positive)



After you complete the RBT sign up process, you're now ready to go out and work as an RBT. You will also need to make sure you are behaving ethically, logging your direct care / supervision hours, and doing your best to represent our profession in a positive light.


What is Supervision, exactly, and does it hurt?

Supervision is performance oversight, typically carried out in person (but not always) while you work with your clients implementing their behavior plan(s).

A BCaBA, BCBA, or BCBA-D can supervise you - you can have multiple supervisors, and your supervisors don't have to be your responsible certificant. You need to have at least one meeting with your responsible certificant per month, unless you have a special arrangement set up within your company (see the Board's requirements here if you have a special case). You will need to carefully document the number of hours you provide direct care each month with your clients, as well as the number of hours you are supervised. This is important because the board is dedicated to ensuring the competent delivery of behavior analytic service, and adequate, effective supervision is a big part of that. They may audit you randomly or as part of a formal inquiry at your agency, and if your documentation is not up-to-date, you may have your certification revoked.

Supervision is not unique to behavior analysis - doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists - all of those folks use supervision in their service delivery model as well.


Per the BACB:


Supervision consists of a variety of activities, including:

  • Performance feedback following direct observation of your work with clients
  • Improving your behavior-analytic problem solving
  • Reviewing your session / case notes
  • Feedback regarding the professionalism, thoroughness, and appropriateness of:
    • your response to feedback from supervisiors
    • the content of your case / session notes
    • your interactions with caregivers and other stakeholders
    • any other reports / documentation required by your posting
  • Are the outcomes & objectives of your client(s) improving as a result of your behavioral service delivery?
  • Are you becoming better, overall, as a behavioral technician?


Maintaining Your Supervision Log

A minimum of 5% of your direct care hours (working with clients) must be supervised by an analyst. This means that an RBT must be supervised for 2 hours a week if they work full-time (40 hours / week). You must maintain a log to document this, so that in the event that you or your agency are audited, you can provide supporting documentation to attest that you were, in fact, supervised to this minimum requirement as mandated by the board. You can download a copy of the board's example supervision log here.



Supervision sounds really scary!

In my experience, a lot of people new to the field may not have encountered supervision prior to working in ABA. Some find it a little stage-fright inducing to have a supervisor quite literally watching you work for what can be hours at a time. Done correctly, supervision is a collaborative process. Supervision is not the time to have your client "be on their best behavior." Quite the opposite - the purpose of supervision is to evaluate whether a behavior change program is working. If you set your session up to avoid any of your client's "eggshells" that might evoke problem behavior, you're doing a disservice to yourself and your client. If your supervisor has designed a program that isn't working, it's their job to fix it. If you are implementing the program incorrectly, it's their job to (politely and professionally) provide you with additional training and assistance. All of this will ensure that your client makes the most efficient progress towards whatever their goals are in the least amount of time.


Supervisors receive some training on how to supervise, but they may not always be instant gurus at it. Some might even suck at it, frankly speaking. You will encounter many different styles of supervision: some supervisors may sit nearby and quietly observe, taking notes, only providing feedback at the end of the session. Other supervisors may frequently interrupt with feedback while you are working. You may prefer immediate feedback (latter example) or delayed feedback (former example). As different behavior analysts have different supervisory styles (and different levels of efficacy implementing supervision), you may want to provide feedback to your supervisor regarding your preferences regarding receiving feedback and training. By no means does BCBA certification instantly make a person a wonderful supervisor or grant a BCBA with super-human interpersonal skills. You will meet jerks, and you will meet people that will truly grow you professionally. You may even meet a few jerks that make you grow professionally. There exists a continuum of quality when it comes to supervisors, like in any field, and it is your responsibility to advocate for yourself and seek supervisors that will help you become your best. A crucial skill, in any profession, is learning to communicate effectively and with kindness. Should you decide to pursue BCaBA, BCBA, or BCBA-D certification later on, you may find yourself supervising individuals much like yourself right now - so treat others with the same respect and professionalism that you'd like to receive.


Still sounds really scary - I hate being watched! It makes me nervous!

As a person with plenty of social anxiety and stage fright, I found supervision pretty intimidating at first, and to an extent, I still do. I think a lot of thoughts when I'm being observed - typically, things like "I should have done ____ better" or "I feel like I'm doing _____ terribly." You can insert whatever you want into those blanks, I've probably had the thought at some point during a service observation. I find it helps to "anchor myself to the moment" or practice mindfulness. That might sound like a lot of hippie mumbo-jumbo, but there's actually a lot of research and empirical evidence to support it. Mindfulness treats your own thoughts as private verbal behavior that you can shape in the same manner as you might shape any other verbal behavior. I've found Russ Harris's discussions on mindfulness, defusion, and staying in the moment to be tremendously helpful for me, and if you're a hyper-caffeineated sociophobe like myself, they might benefit you too. You can read about more about mindfulness, and the branch of behavioral science it stems from (ACT - Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) online or by reading some of the research articles by Steven Hayes (he's also the guy behind RFT, in case you were wondering).

Maybe the strategy of practicing pragmatic mindfulness will be helpful for you in reducing your anxiety during supervision. Maybe just simple practice will desensitize you to the aversiveness of being observed by a supervisor.



Are we Preparing RBTs Adequately Enough to Succeed in Behavior Analysis?

Since the introduction of the RBT credential in 2014, tens of thousands of folks have become certified. The introduction of the RBT exam made it more difficult to obtain the RBT credential, but many thousands of people have successfully passed the exam. There has been some concern in the behavior analytic community that the requirements to become an RBT are not strict enough. For example, Leaf et al. compared requirements to become a RBT vs requirements to become a LPN (licensed practical nurse). LPNs are comparable entry-level technicians in the medical industry. The requirements, as described by Leaf et al., are far more strenuous for the LPN to obtain their licensure than for the RBT to obtain their credentialing, although their duties are similar in complexity.

LPN vs. RBT Requirements
RBT:LPN (source: Florida, US)
$50 Application Fee$85 Licensure Fee
40 Hours Training1 year of hands-on work + coursework
Pass the RBT ExamPass the NCLEX-PN Exam
RBT Exam Fee - $35NCLEX-PN Fee - $200


The Take Home: other professions might be doing a better job preparing folks for their jobs than we are doing in behavior analysis.


RBTs have a great many duties and responsibilities, ranging from:

  • implementing verbal skills utilizing elementary verbal operants (mand, tact, intraverbal, etc.)
  • managing severe behavior like aggression or SIB
  • Assisting with functional assessment procedures
  • Collecting and graphing data in various phases (baseline, treatment, maintanence)
  • Understanding basic principles of behavior, such as reinforcement and punishment.
  • Basic knowledge about the population they serve, such as individuals with TBI, Prader-Willi Syndrome, Autism, etc.


How can someone master all of these skills with just 40 hours of instruction? It seems like an impossible task, and perhaps the solution, for right now at least, is to commit yourself, as an individual, to continued education, even if you master the "RBT Competency Checklist." Who wants to be basically competent, anyway? You want to be extremely competent! You want to be the best you can be, and it's safe to assume 40 hours is insufficient to that task. There has been lots of research that has examined the quality of parent and teacher training packages, but limited research on the success of RBT training packages in terms of preparing individuals to succeed clinically.


Even after you pass the RBT Exam, your education should be ongoing and continuous - don't settle for basic competency. Always strive to improve!



Got Something to Say?

Now it's your turn to share your opinion. Tell us what you think!

Please always try to keep it civil.

BCBA Rules 2022 Part 1: Fieldwork

Recommended Practices for Individual Supervision of Aspiring Behavior Analysts

Tyra P. Sellers

Trumpet Behavioral Health, 390 Union Blvd., Suite 300, Lakewood, CO 80228 USA

Find articles by Tyra P. Sellers

Amber L. Valentino

Trumpet Behavioral Health, 390 Union Blvd., Suite 300, Lakewood, CO 80228 USA

Find articles by Amber L. Valentino

Linda A. LeBlanc

Trumpet Behavioral Health, 390 Union Blvd., Suite 300, Lakewood, CO 80228 USA

Find articles by Linda A. LeBlanc

This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.


Practicing behavior analysts and behavior analysts in academic settings often provide supervision for young professionals who are pursuing certification as a behavior analyst. Effective supervision is critical to the quality of ongoing behavioral services, the professional development of the supervisee, the continued growth of the supervisor, and the overall development of our field and its practice. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board recently instituted several new requirements including training in supervisory practices prior to supervising those who are accruing hours toward the experience requirement for certification. However, few published resources exist to guide supervisor activities and recommended practice. The paper summarizes five overarching recommended practices for supervision. For each practice, detailed strategies and resources for structuring the supervisory experience are provided.

Keywords: Certification, Fieldwork experience, Individual supervision, Mentoring, Practicum, Supervision

The field of applied behavior analysis (ABA) has a rich literature base on effectively teaching new practitioners discrete skills, such as conducting functional analyses (FAs) of problem behavior and interpreting the results (Chok, Shlesinger, Studer, & Bird, 2012) and using effective instructional practices during both discrete trial and incidental teaching formats (Lerman, Vorndran, Addison, & Kuhn, 2004). Much of these training efforts are accomplished through the use of behavioral skills training (BST) which consists of four components—instructions, modeling, rehearsal, and feedback (Miltenberger, 2003). Practitioners can access synthesized guides, like the recent publication by Parsons, Rollyson, and Reid (2012) outlining evidence-based staff training strategies and practice considerations in implementing those staff training strategies. Although there is a large body of literature regarding how to teach behavior analysts new specific skills, there is a paucity of research and few practice guidelines to inform effective overall supervision practices .

In the past 5 years, the number of individuals pursuing certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board® (BACB®) as Board Certified Behavior Analysts® (BCBAs®) and Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts® (BCaBAs®) has substantially increased (Carr 2015). This rapid rise in individuals seeking training and pursuing certification is likely due to multiple factors. For example, one factor contributing to the rise is the increasing demand for intervention services as many states mandate managed care coverage for ABA services for individuals diagnosed with autism. In addition, many public schools are increasing the credentialing requirements for those providing services for individuals with disabilities.

The BACB has clearly established requirements for eligibility to sit for the exam, as well as the requirements of those behavior analysts wishing to provide supervision (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2015a, b). Despite clear requirements about eligibility from the BACB, the specific activities used to mentor and teach supervisees are determined by individual BCBA supervisors (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2015a). That is, the specific content and strategies employed during supervision are not directly dictated by the BACB. Many behavior analysts may have never received explicit instruction or guidance on how to be an effective supervisor or on the critical nature the role of supervisor plays in the shaping of professionals in a field. Since many established behavior analysts never received explicit training in supervising others as part of their graduate education, most of us have likely had at least some non-optimal experiences with a supervisor and we must strive to behave differently with our supervisees. Bailey and Burch (2010) encourage us to “try to be the supervisor you always wanted but never had” (p.93).

Perhaps in response to the lack of explicit instruction and non-optimal supervisory practices, the BACB created a Supervision Task Force, resulting in several changes to the supervision and experience requirements (BACB, 2012). The BACB added eligibility requirements for BCBAs to provide the required supervision to those pursuing certification or to practicing BCaBAs. Before BCBAs can provide supervision, they must complete an 8-h competency-based training covering effective supervision following the curriculum guidelines set forth by the BACB. In addition, those pursuing certification and those BCBAs who would like to provide supervision must complete the BACB’s online supervision and experience training module, which describes the specific guidelines and logistics for supervision and experience hour accrual. Finally, for all BCBAs who wish to provide supervision, the BACB added the specification that certificants must complete 3 h of supervision continuing education as part of the total required 32 h within each 2-year recertification cycle.

Due to the new criteria established by the BACB, we have the structure to ensure that our time in supervision is more likely to be productive and effective. This structure also facilitates the development of future behavior analysts who are competent, confident, effective with consumers, and who consistently engage in ethical and responsible practice. However, there is still a personal commitment on the part of the supervising BCBA to ensure these resources are used to their fullest potential and that the supervision experience is substantial and high quality. There are some resources to guide effective supervision of direct clinical service delivery and procedural implementation (e.g., Reid, Parsons, & Green, 2012); however, there are insufficient published resources to guide supervision of the more complex repertoires required to be a competent behavior analyst (e.g., ethical decision-making; fluent application of concepts and principles in program design). The field needs literature to guide our supervisory practices and supervisors must be prepared to acknowledge their direct role in shaping the future of our field and the quality of future BCBAs and BCaBAs.

In recent years, the field has produced recommended practice guidelines in a number of areas, including staff training (Parsons et al., 2012), treatment selection (Geiger, Carr, & LeBlanc, 2010), and measurement system selection (Fiske & Delmolino, 2012; LeBlanc, Raetz, Sellers, & Carr, 2016) that have helped shape our practice. The purpose of this paper is to establish five overarching recommended practice guidelines for individual supervision in the field of ABA. Although group supervision can be an important and valuable component of supervision, these practice guidelines will focus on individual supervision only. These guidelines were developed as part of an initiative to standardize practices in a human services agency. A subcommittee of BCBA-Ds met regularly for multiple years to identify critical aspects of supervisory practice, relevant regulatory guidelines by credentialing organizations, and resources to support supervisors in engaging in those practices. In general, these practices follow the timeline of establishment of the relationship through the end of the accrual of experience hours and beyond. The five practices include (1) Establish an effective supervisor-supervisee relationship, (2) Establish a structured approach with specific content and competencies, (3) Evaluate the effects of your supervision, (4) Incorporate ethics and professional development into supervision, and (5) Continue the professional relationship post-certification. For ease of reading and consistency, the authors chose to use feminine pronouns throughout as a substitute for he or she and his or her.

Recommended Practice Guideline 1: Establish an Effective Supervisor-Supervisee Relationship

Before a supervisor can establish an effective relationship with supervisees, it is important for the supervisor to fully understand the gravity of the mentor role. The supervisor has the responsibility for development of all aspects of the applied behavior analytic repertoire including the assessment and treatment skills sets, ethical skill sets, overall values and professional behavior, and interpersonal skills for interacting professionally with parents, clients, co-workers and other professionals. The supervisor has an opportunity to shape successful behavior analysts who become emissaries for our profession. The relationship between supervisor and supervisee must be established with an understanding of the critical importance of the relationship and the need to focus supervision on development of optimal skills to produce final success as a practicing behavior analyst.

Building an effective supervisory relationship with appropriate expectations clarified at the outset is the foundation on which the remaining four recommended practices discussed in this paper are built. If the relationship is not established with clear guidelines, mutual agreement, and mutual respect, the remaining recommended practices will be difficult to consistently follow and dysfunction may develop in the relationship. For example, if the supervisor has not clearly described the expectation for mutual timeliness for all meetings, one of the two parties might be late to the meeting resulting in inadequate time to effectively focus on the targeted skills and client issues. However, if the supervisor sets clear expectations before supervision begins and adheres to those same parameters of timeliness and prioritization of the relationship, this potential issue will be avoided rather than managed after the fact. Due to the importance of this practice recommendation, the remaining components of this specific recommended practice are discussed in sections that can be viewed as specific behaviors for the supervisor to engage in when establishing the relationship and adhering to recommended practice guideline 1. The individual receiving supervision should also read these guidelines and understand that the supervisor will use them in her practice with the supervisee.

Supervision Contracts

The first step in establishing an effective supervisor-supervisee relationship is to ensure that both parties understand their roles and the scope of the supervision. To this end, the BACB requires that supervisors and supervisees agree to and sign a contract (BACB, 2015a) at the onset of the supervisory relationship. The supervisor can download and use a sample contract provided by the BACB on their website (BACB, 2015b) or create their own contract that meets the same specifications. Versions are available for university and non-university practice settings. The BACB clearly outlines the supervision contract requirements for practitioners, indicating that the supervision contract should clearly describe the responsibilities of the supervisor and supervisee, the scope of activities considered appropriate for experience hours, as well as instructional objectives for the supervisee. It is critical to clearly define, in objective and measurable terms, the criteria that must be met for the supervisor to sign the final Experience Verification Form (EVF; BACB, 2015a) and any consequences should either party fail to adhere to the requirements of the contract (e.g., if the supervisee feels she met her obligations for experience but the supervisor disagrees and does not sign the EVF, she can contest the determination to the BACB). The supervisor should ensure that the contract includes an indication that the supervisee may need to obtain written permission from her employer when applicable (e.g., the employer is not also the supervisor). The BACB requires that supervision contracts include language indicating that both parties understand and agree to act in accordance with all BACB ethical requirements.

The next step is to review the contract with the supervisee and answer any questions. It is recommended that the supervisor have the supervisee list out all of the activities, along with the frequency and duration of those activities that she would like to credit toward the fieldwork requirements. The discussion of appropriate activities may occur at the onset of the supervisory relationship and may be a continued conversation throughout the supervisory experience as new opportunities arise. The supervisor should then consider each of the requirements and determine whether the requested activities are indeed appropriate activities according to the BACB. Appropriate activities focus on the supervisee acquiring new behavior analytic skills, as guided by the current task list. The activities must also be consistent with the dimensions of behavior analysis as outlined by Baer, Wolf, and Rilsey (1968). In determining the acceptable activities, it is also important to indicate how many fieldwork experience hours will be accrued weekly to determine the number of required supervision hours to which you are committing as a supervisor. A supervisor should not enter into the relationship if they cannot sustain the volume of experience hours and supervision that the aspiring certificant is hoping to accrue.

Setting Clear Expectations

In the first meeting, the supervisor should take time to discuss her expectations of the supervisee. Setting clear performance expectations is a critical component in evidence-based supervision (Reid et al., 2012). Supervisees cannot be expected to meet performance expectations if those expectations are not clearly delineated. In turn, supervisors cannot effectively assess performance if the expectations have not been defined ahead of time. One aspect of the supervisor-supervisee relationship is to build the supervisee’s repertoire of professional behavior; therefore, it is helpful to review specific expectations related to the supervision meetings. One strategy for enhancing organizational skills and professional behavior is to have the supervisee submit a draft agenda to the supervisor 24 h before each meeting. Crafting an effective agenda requires the supervisee to plan in a comprehensive and thoughtful way to prioritize their needs and make the supervision time productive. This advanced agenda also gives the supervisor the opportunity to review materials and plan resources that they might share with the supervisee in the meeting. See Appendix A for a sample agenda. The supervisor should also set specific expectations around note taking, deadlines for completion of products related to assigned activities, and systems for managing documentation (e.g., tracking experience and supervision hours). For example, the supervisor may ask the supervisee to send documents before supervision (e.g., an agenda, a tracking sheet with accrued hours, a prepared documentation form).

Receiving and Accepting Feedback

Early in the relationship, the supervisor should take the time to describe the supervision process and that it will include specific feedback. This feedback should clearly indicate the aspects of the supervisee’s performance that met expectations, as well as those that did not and what actions the supervisee should take to remediate deficits (Reid et al., 2012). Setting the expectation for specific feedback that is both positive and constructive, prepares the supervisee to expect to discuss performance strengths and weaknesses, and may lessen any undue stress associated with receiving feedback. This practice will also model for the supervisee how to give both positive and constructive feedback in preparation for their future supervision of others. This is also a good time to set expectations regarding how feedback should be accepted. For example, the supervisor might acknowledge that receiving corrective feedback can be difficult, but if both parties understand the importance of the feedback and agree at be professional and respectful, the process should be positive. In addition, the supervisor might describe specific behaviors that the supervisee can exhibit when receiving any type of feedback, such as smiling, nodding, taking notes, paraphrasing the feedback back to the supervisor, and asking for clarification or examples.

Creating a Committed and Positive Relationship

In addition to setting expectations, it is also important for the supervisor to convey a strong commitment to creating a positive learning context in which the supervisee is expected to flourish and also make some mistakes. The supervisor can convey commitment by being pleasant and caring (e.g., greet the supervisee each meeting, smile, point out the supervisee’s successes and accomplishments) and being consistently professional (e.g., being on time to meetings, providing promised materials and resources, editing and responding to products in a timely manner, providing information about conferences or training events). These actions provide an important model for the supervisee’s own behavior and communicate that the supervisor values the supervisee and takes the mentor role seriously. It is important to note that behavior analysts are obligated by the Compliance Code to use positive reinforcement in supervisory practices, and to deliver feedback and reinforcement in a timely manner (BACB, 2014). Therefore, creating a positive context and supportive relationship is not only optimal practice, but is also explicitly required by the BACB.

The overarching goal of the supervisor should be to develop and foster a relationship where feedback and guidance is valued and the supervisee wants to attend and be an active participant at the meetings. Supervisors can do several things to develop such a relationship, including providing frequent specific praise and feedback. When providing corrective feedback, the supervisor should clearly indicate the incorrect behavior demonstrated and specify what the supervisee should do differently next time (Reid et al., 2012) and use a behavioral skills training model in teach skills (Parsons et al., 2012). When providing corrective feedback, the supervisor may want to begin by making an empathetic statement, such as: “I understand that this skill is really complicated, and I appreciate your hard work in learning this skill.” The supervisor should also consider framing the feedback with do statements, as opposed to don’t statements (e.g., “Vary your praise statements by changing what you say.” Vs. “Don’t always say ‘good job.’”). The supervisor can finish the feedback delivery with an optimistic statement about future performance and reiteration of the fact that she is glad to be the individual’s supervisor (Reid et al., 2012). Remember what your mother told you: it’s not just what you say, but how you say it (i.e., exact words, tone) that really matters.

Recommended Practice Guideline 2: Establish a Plan for Structured Supervision Content and Competence Evaluation

Evidence-based supervision is both performance- and competency-based (Falender & Shafranske, 2004; Parsons et al., 2012). Specifically, the performance-based component of supervision focuses on the specific behaviors that are modeled and trained. Competency-based supervision refers to establishing a pre-determined mastery criterion for each behavior or task, and having the supervisee perform the task until that criterion is met. In order to accomplish this in a systematic way, supervisors might develop a set of objective and measurable target skills (i.e., competencies) using the current BACB task list. Doing so facilitates assessment of the supervisee’s progress and mastery of the competencies. Having these competencies delineated also facilitates the supervisor engaging in self-evaluation to determine the efficacy of her supervision. Finally, for those individuals supervising multiple people, clear competencies with objective mastery criteria may prevent inconsistency or inequity in supervisory practices across supervisees.

Creating the competencies should begin by reviewing the BACB task list in detail, and organizing the tasks and content into logical groupings and sequences. It is recommended that supervisees have one primary supervisor who coordinates the overall progress of supervision while other BCBAs periodically provide additional supervision to provide multiple examples of how different professionals approach various issues. The primary supervisor should take the responsibility for ensuring that there is coordinated mentoring and evaluation for the supervisee. Attention should be paid to differentiating competencies for knowledge and discussion-based content, versus those that are performance and observation-based. Knowledge-based content requires the supervisor to ensure that the supervisee can demonstrate an understanding of the concept, principle, or technology (Parsons et al., 2012). For example, the supervisor may want the supervisee to correctly define and give examples of positive and negative reinforcement. In this case, the supervisor may simply ask the supervisee to provide the examples and compare their responses to a pre-determined acceptable response requirement for their verbal response. Performance-based content, on the other hand, focuses on correct performance of a skill at some indicated mastery criterion (Parsons et al., 2012), assessed in either live or role-play scenarios. For example, the supervisee may need to conduct all conditions of a functional analysis with 100 % procedural integrity. Simply describing the set up would be insufficient for this mastery criterion. In this case, the supervisor should set up a situation to directly observe the supervisee engaging in this task with a client or in a role-play and score performance accordingly. Each of these competency types is explained in more detail below.

Evaluating knowledge-based competence typically involves having the supervisee provide definitions, explain the content, give examples and non-examples, and critically evaluate scenarios. It is important for the supervisor to determine the scope of potential audiences to ensure that the supervisee can apply the content to the requisite contexts. For example, it may be important for the supervisee to be able to explain the process and procedures related to extinction in both behavior analytic terms, as well as terms suitable for non-behavior analytic audiences (e.g., parents, teachers, school administrators). An example of a knowledge-based competency that requires the supervisee to distinguish between environmental and mentalistic explanations of behavior is provided in Appendix B.

Assessing competency with performance-based content is typically completed by observing in vivo performance of the skill or task, reviewing a permanent product (e.g., data sheet, behavioral intervention program, graph), or role-playing activities that are not readily observable. For example, the supervisee might want a supervisee to complete all conditions of a functional analysis with 100 % procedural integrity. The supervisor can either arrange an opportunity to do this live with an actual client or complete this in a role-play context if no appropriate direct clinical opportunity exists. An example of a performance-based competency that requires the supervisee to design and describe a functional analysis is provided in Appendix C. As the supervisee moves through the competencies with their supervisor(s), the primary supervisor can use this list to track progress on skills and ability to respond to and incorporate feedback.

The supervisor should make the competencies target list available to the supervisee, and review the list at the start of the supervisory relationship. The supervisor and supervisee should discuss the areas and tasks to focus on first. Selection might be driven by the supervisee’s current work activities in an attempt to select those tasks and content areas that are most relevant and which the supervisor might master most easily. Another consideration is the supervisee’s pre-existing skill set in certain areas. If a supervisee does not have any experience creating measurement procedures, the supervisor might select this as an early skill to work on to provide sufficient time to address the concepts and skills in a systematic manner. In addition, the supervisee can use the list to self-evaluate areas of strength and weakness. This self-reflection might lead to the supervisee nominating areas to target for focused practice and other skills that are already strong that she might request to immediately try to perform at mastery. For example, if a supervisee has consistently graphed data in a software program, she might ask to present a work sample with follow up questions posed by the supervisor (e.g., “can you explain why you chose a dotted phase change line here?”, “how would you create a secondary y-axis?”) rather than direct demonstration of the actual graphing behavior.

The supervisor should clearly explain that it is unlikely the supervisee will meet every competency the first time they attempt to do so. A supervisees’ meeting of the mastery criteria for each competency on the first attempt might indicate that the mastery criteria have been set too low. The purpose of developing clear and objective competencies is to ensure that knowledge and skills are demonstrated at a level that ensues that consumers will receive high quality services, which requires the standards to be quite high. Explaining to the supervisee that she is likely to need to repeat some competencies may reduce emotional responses and facilitate diligent preparation for a second attempt when the initial attempt is unsuccessful.

The supervisor should also clearly and supportively describe the assistance that will be provided and the steps for remediation when the criterion is not met for a competency. Because the competencies are determined ahead of time, the supervisor should be able to objectively determine if the supervisee meets a requirement. If the supervisee does not demonstrate mastery, the supervisor should provide additional support using a behavioral skills training approach, such as reading material, and should model, allow practice, and provide feedback, until the mastery criterion is met. The supervisor could direct the supervisee to pre-selected articles or book chapters on the competency with guidance to read further before attempting to retest (see Appendices B and C for examples of extra resources for sample competencies). The supervisor should have pre-made extra examples, non-examples, or scenarios that they can use as rehearsal opportunities or for a second testing opportunity.

Developing and using competencies during supervision will ensure the supervisor has a well-constructed plan to develop the supervisee’s skills, enabling the supervisee to have experiences that will increase the likelihood of being successful in her new career. The BACB requires that supervisors develop specific evaluation criteria for the tasks and content covered in supervision and convey that information to the supervisee prior to the start of supervisory relationship (BACB, 2014). While developing these resources is no easy task, and needs to be done thoughtfully and before supervision begins, the benefit of doing so will positively impact each supervisee, as well as the clients with whom the supervisee works.

Recommended Practice Guideline 3: Evaluate the Effects of the Supervision

The BACB (2014) specifically indicates that supervisors must create systems for the purpose of assessing the outcomes of their supervision activities and efforts. A supervisor can evaluate the effects of her own supervision in a number of different ways including the following suggestions. The supervisor might track the number and rate of competencies completed by the supervisee. During meetings, the supervisor can note changes in the language used by the supervisee to assess if she is using more precise language as modeled by the supervisor. The supervisor might also track the number and type of errors made in permanent products (e.g., data sheets, program and intervention plans, job aids and treatment integrity forms, reports). For example, the supervisor might track the number of grammatical errors and technical errors. If the number of different errors decreases over time in response to specific feedback, then the supervisor has some indication that her supervision is having a positive effect. In addition, improvements in client outcomes might be indirectly suggestive of positive effects of the supervision process. In other words, the clinical expertise and guidance provided by the supervisor may result in improvements in clinical programming and outcomes.

The supervisor can also solicit feedback directly from the supervisee. This feedback can be solicited in an ongoing, informal, and non-threatening way during supervision meetings. Early on in the supervisory relationship, the supervisor can indicate the preference to receive feedback from the supervisee. The supervisor should frequently ask the supervisee if she feels her needs are being met and if the information is being provided in an easily consumable way. If the supervisee provides relevant feedback to the supervisor should do her best to incorporate that feedback immediately.

On a more formal note, the supervisor could create a brief structured survey for the supervisee to complete. The survey should include specific areas, including organization, the knowledge level of the supervisor, and provision of praise and feedback. In addition, the supervisor could ask the degree to which the supervisee finds the supervision meetings and information covered useful and relevant to her clinical work. The survey could also include open-ended questions, such as: “What do you like best about the supervision activities?” or “What could we do differently together to enhance the supervisory experience?” Using a structured survey may work best when a supervisor has more than one supervisee and can administer the survey such that the results are anonymous. Some supervisors might have the opportunity to discuss the effects of supervision with the supervisee’s employer. In this case, the supervisor might consider having brief, recurring discussions with the employer to assess the degree to which positive changes in the supervisee’s skills set have been detected. If appropriate, the supervisor could ask the employer to complete a brief survey at a mid-point and at the end of the supervision relationship.

The strategies described above and many others could be used to evaluate supervisory practices. As with any other behavior analytic endeavor, the behavior analyst should collect some type of data that is indicative of the impact of the specific strategies that she employs. Without this examination of the effects of supervision, the supervisor might continue to use ineffective strategies. Thoughtful reflection, honest discussion, and measurement of some performance that should be expected to change as a result of supervision will allow the supervisor to make well-informed, data-based decisions about their ongoing supervision activities.

Recommended Practice Guideline 4: Incorporate Ethics and Professional Development into Supervision

In addition to competencies addressing behavior analytic knowledge and skills, the supervisor should address and directly shape ethical and professional development during the supervisory relationship. In fact, 7.0 of the Compliance Code requires that behavior analysts actively work to establish and foster a culture that values and promotes ethical behavior in their work environment and actively increase others’ awareness of code 7.0 (BACB, 2014). The three authors of this manuscript have a combined 27 years of experience providing supervision to aspiring BCBAs, BCaBAs, and licensed psychologists. In our experience, ethical dilemmas present the most challenging aspect of a new graduate’s career. Clinicians report this to be one of the most difficult parts of their everyday experiences. In spite of review and mastery of the ethics code in their training and testing situations, an aspiring or new credentialed clinician may feel daunted by ethical situations that arise suddenly in practice settings. The details of an ongoing ethical dilemma can make it seem different from scenarios that have previously been discussed even when the fundamental issues are similar, resulting in a failure to use the appropriate response in this generalization opportunity.

It is critical that supervisors expose supervisees to a wide variety of ethical dilemmas, actively analyze the situations for the core ethical issues that should control responding, evaluate the benefits and concerns of multiple potential responses together (i.e., structured problem solving). Supervisors in organizational settings should become familiar with strategies for building a structure that promotes ethical behavior and supervision (Brodhead & Higbee, 2012). Readers are also directed to Bailey and Burch (2011) Appendix C: Fifty Ethics Scenarios for Behavior Analysts for relevant and varied examples to discuss in supervision. It is equally important to engage in ongoing discussions about actual ethical dilemmas as they occur, creating multiple learning opportunities for the supervisee to practice decision-making around difficult issues. Though the supervisee may always need support in making difficult decisions, it is important that they experience this complex process while under supervision. This ensures that the first time they encounter an ethical dilemma does not occur post-certification. That is, having ample opportunity to discuss issues and tackle hypothetical or real problems in supervision will increase the supervisee’s confidence and skill set in dealing with ethical dilemmas.

Professional development encompasses the ongoing activities, which facilitate continuous learning and skill development (e.g., leadership training, workshop attendance for new skill development) and familiarity with current research-based best practices (e.g., remaining in contact with the literature, attending conferences). Supervisors should encourage supervisees to subscribe to one or more relevant behavior analytic journals. Carr and Briggs (2010) provide a framework and practical suggestions for maintaining contact with applied behavior analytic literature. Supervisors can model appropriate professional development behavior by consuming the published literature, identifying relevant articles, and analyzing those articles with the supervisee. Supervisors should regularly share relevant articles with the supervisee during supervision meetings. The articles might include demonstrations of a specific intervention (Charania et al., 2010; Riviere, Becquet, Peltret, Facon, and Darcheville 2011), conceptual and review papers (Hanley, Iwata, & McCord 2003; Michael, 1985; Volkert & Vaz, 2010), or syntheses of practice guidelines for clinical practice (e.g., Geiger et al., 2010; Grow, Carr, & LeBlanc, 2009; Hanley, 2012; Hanley, Jin, Vanselow, & Hanratty, 2014; Iwata & Dozier, 2008; Tiger, Hanley, & Bruzek 2008). Many of the articles referenced include helpful tables, decision-making algorithms, and tools in the appendices that supervisees may find useful. It may benefit supervisees to observe supervisors use the published literature to select relevant articles for a clinical need and translate the procedures into a clinical protocol for a client. Supervisors may also look to Bailey and Burch (2010) for a detailed resource on critical skills for professional behavior analysts. Bailey and Burch provide a self-evaluation of professional skills that supervisors may wish to have supervisees complete at the beginning and end of the supervision experience.

Supervisors can also encourage conference attendance and provide guidance on professional behavior and strategies for maximizing learning and networking opportunities during the conference. Supervisors should review conference schedules with supervisees and offer feedback with respect to selection of topics and specific presenters. Attending talks on a range of topics can help to expand the supervisee’s knowledge base and perspective on the breadth of the field. Accordingly, a behavior analyst might provide services for young children but attend a talk on working with older adults due to a personal interest or as preparation for potentially expanding into a new practice area (LeBlanc, Heinicke, & Baker, 2012). Supervisees may be unfamiliar with specific researchers in the field so the supervisor might direct attendance selections based on the presenter’s history, affiliation or significant contributions to the field.

Recommended Practice Guideline 5: Continuing the Professional Relationship Post-Certification

Once a supervisee has completed their supervision, defined as both meeting the hour requirement and meeting all competencies provided by the supervisor, the relationship between supervisor and supervisee should transition but probably not end. The formal ending of this part of the relationship should be celebratory and the supervisor and supervisee should take some time together to reflect on what went well, what they could improve upon, and an overall analysis of the experience. Both parties should give each other feedback so the supervisee is equipped to engage in similar professional relationships with supervisors in the future, and the supervisor is equipped to continue to engage in effective supervisory practices and change any areas that may need improvement.

The pair should also plan for ongoing mentorship and collaboration for the future and establish how they will maintain a relationship going forward. That is, the supervisor should become an ongoing source of support for the supervisee though the nature and frequency of contact and support will necessarily change. This ongoing support and collaboration could occur in a number of ways including the following: the supervisor could invite the supervisee to a peer review group to ensure a constant network of colleagues for consultation; the supervisor-supervisee pair could establish continuing monthly meetings for mentoring; the pair could share articles and other relevant resources as they encounter them; the supervisor could introduce the supervisee to other professionals in the field; the supervisor could provide letters of recommendations for future career opportunities; the supervisor could introduce new supervisees to past supervisees and facilitate establishment of a peer network. The pair could work collaboratively on clinical or research projects as opportunities to do so arise. This list is certainly not exhaustive and many other strategies might work just as well as the ones listed here to foster ongoing contact and mentorship, even if the contact is much more sporadic.


Our field increasingly recognizes the importance of effective supervision and explicit instruction in supervisory experiences. The changes to the supervision and experience requirements (BACB, 2012) attest to the importance of effective and meaningful supervised experience hours in the repertoires of the aspiring certificants. In addition, the new requirements for ongoing continuing education in supervision in each recertification cycle create the expectation of continued quality improvement in this critical process. Toward this end, this article might be incorporated into a journal club activity for continuing education units and sample study questions are included in Appendix D.

In keeping with the recent trend for creation of recommended practice guidelines in various practice areas of applied behavior analysis (Fiske & Delmolino, 2012; Geiger et al., 2010; LeBlanc et al., 2016; Parsons et al., 2012), this paper presents five overarching recommended practice guidelines for individual supervision. These practice guidelines are intended to be a starting point for individual supervisors and organizations in evaluating their current supervisory practices, and a roadmap for developing supervisory systems that meet the requirements of the BACB. Though these recommended guidelines are based on various published resources (Reid et al., 2012; Bailey & Burch, 2010; Brodhead & Higbee, 2012) and a comprehensive clinical standards initiative of a large human services agency, the grouping of these five recommendations has not been experimentally determined to be best practice compared to any other specific practice. There is great potential to develop a more robust scientific literature evaluating these and alternative or supplemental practice recommendations to guide our supervision efforts.

Perhaps this article will provide guidance to behavior analysts who find themselves in the critical and rewarding position of providing supervision and mentorship to supervisees. There is no more valuable contribution to the field that the shaping of the repertoires of our next generation of professionals. The Appendices and Table included here contain ideas, examples, and suggested publicly available resources relevant to each of the recommended practice guidelines and actions. However, many other resources could be developed and shared in our professional community. An updated version of this paper or alternative suggestions could become a common event in the published literature as the collective knowledge and expertise in the area of effective supervision grows (Table ​1).

Table 1

Practice guideline resources and ideas

Guideline 1 EstablishContractsUse a well crafted contract→Download template from BACB
Effective Supervisor-Supervisee Relationship→Customize the template from BACB or create
Clear ExpectationsIdentify clear expectations for supervisor and supervisee behavior→Create a document or PowerPoint defining supervisor and supervisee behavior expectations and review with supervisees at the outset
→Create agenda and notes templates
Receiving and Accepting FeedbackDevelop and use effective feedback skills, directly teach supervisees to effective feedback skills→Create a document or PowerPoint with specific information about how to receive and accept feedback
→Chapter 20 Bailey & Burch 25 Essential Skills
Parsons et al. (2012) Article on effective staff training
→Print and post the infographic “The Most Powerful Leadership Tool—Positive Reinforcement—5 keys to Effective Delivery” (Daniels, 2015)
→Review the blog articles at (Various blog articles; Aubrey Daniels Blog, 2015)
Creating a Committed and Positive RelationshipDevelop skills and systems that facilitate development of a positive culture and supervisory experience→Dale Carnegie (1981) “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
→Article by Darnell Lattal “The Science of Success: Creating Great Places to Work” (Lattal, 2012)
→Create a company-wide providing supervision
→Create a company-wide training for those providing supervision
→Model critical behavior for creating a positive supervision experience
→Provide specific feedback to supervisees
→Incorporate this into staff performance evaluations
Guideline 2 Establish A Structured Supervision Content and Competence Evaluation PlanCreate Measurable Competencies (knowledge and performance based)Develop a system for addressing and measuring critical areas of knowledge and skills→Use the BACB™ Task List to create specific each task
→Create an accompanying supervisor’s manual with example definitions, scenarios, and resources
Review Competency Requirements SuperviseeSet aside time meetings to fully and competencies→Provide supervisees with a version of the competencies for self-management and tracking
→Review expectations for demonstration of mastery as each task is addressed
Create Plan for Addressing Supervisee Failing to Demonstrate CompetencyDevelop a systematic procedure for tracking and remediating→In the supervisor’s manual, include extra resources and back-up activities to be completed
→Document steps taken to address lack of content/skill demonstration and level of success
Guideline 3 Evaluate the Effects of the SupervisionMonitor Effects During Supervision and Work ActivitiesDevelop system for assessing the effects of supervision activities→Create a tracking system to measure number and rate of competencies mastered
→Measure application of the skills during supervisees’ work activities within the company
→Include measures related to effects of supervision on supervisee’s performance evaluations
Solicit FeedbackActively solicit feedback from Supervisees→Regularly ask for feedback directly
→Create an anonymous survey that is administered to supervisees on a regular schedule
Guideline 4 Incorporate Ethics and Professional Development into SupervisionEthicsActively engage in activities to promote discussion and critical analyses of ethical considerations and potential dilemmas Engage in discussions and problem solving around actual ethical dilemmas→Create a repository of examples of relevant ethical dilemmas; solicit from colleagues
Engage in discussions and problem solving around actual ethical dilemmas→Create structured relevant codes situations that organization
→Develop an “Ethics” committee to disseminate resources and help address concerns and have supervisees participate or review material
→Use the examples provided Bailey and Burch (2011) book
→Use examples from the “Ethics Challenge” section in issues of the APBA Reporter (APBA, 2015)
Professional DevelopmentActively promote professional development and provide opportunities→Provide information about local and relevant professional conferences and workshops
→Provide assistance conferences and presentations
→Assign articles and require written summaries and presentations
→Use group supervision to have supervisees read, analyze, summarize, and present on
→Suggest journals for subscription and groups/associations for membership
→Read article by Carr and Briggs (2010) on strategies for remaining in contact with research
→Use the ERIC database through ProQuest for those registered with the BACB ™ through the BACB Gateway
Guideline 5 Continuing the Professional Relationship Post CertificationEstablish Parameters for Ongoing SupportActively communicate that the supervisee can contact you in the future→Create schedule of ongoing check ins
→Create network of individuals who can serve as professional contacts for supervisee
→Invite the supervisee back to engage with and support others pursuing BCBA certification
→Create access to university resources

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Appendix A

Sample Individual Supervision Agenda created by supervisee

Individual BCBA Supervision Agenda

Wednesday May 27th, 2015; 1 pm-2:30 pm

Supervisor: George Collins, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Supervisee: Jill Smith

  • General check in (5 min)

  • Review and discuss updated hours tracking system, discuss activities for next week (10 min)

  • Follow up action item from last week’s competency (#40, creation of line graph) (15 min)

  • New Competency 2: changing mentalistic explanations into environmental explanations (20 min)

  • Review new protocol for consumer A on teaching mands for information using “how” (20 min)

  • Review feedback on performance and complete supervision documentation (10 min)

  • Review plan for next supervision meetings (10 min)

Appendix B

Sample Knowledge-Based Competency

Distinguish between mentalistic and environmental explanations of behavior when provided with scenarios.

The team member should be able to respond to at least two examples you give to tell you whether the example meets the criterion for an environmental explanation of behavior and if not, why. Read each example and have them label it as an environmental explanation or a mentalistic explanation and then have them describe why they classified it as such.

  • Example 1: Jack engages in challenging behaviors such as hitting and kicking because he knows he will get away with it.

    • This example does not meet an environmental explanation of behavior because it relies on an inner or mental explanation (“knowing”) to explain Jack’s behavior and does not describe observable events or Jack’s interaction with the environment.

  • Example 2: After an academic task is presented to Jack, he engages in problem behavior in the form of hitting and kicking. When he does this, social attention is provided from the teacher’s aide and Jack continues to engage in this problem behavior when presented with academic tasks.

    • This example meets an environmental explanation of behavior because it relies on observable environmental events (i.e., academic tasks are presented, social attention is provided), and it relies on the interaction between Jack and his environment (his teacher, academic tasks, etc.).

  • Example 3: Jill does not ask for things she wants because she has not yet made the association between using language and getting things.

    • This example does not meet an environmental explanation of behavior because it relies on an inner explanation (“making the association”) to explain Jill’s behavior. It does not use observable events or Jill’s interaction with her environment to describe her behavior.

  • Example 4: Jill vocally requests “juice” approximately 50 times per day because in the past, her mom has provided her juice each time she requested it.

    • This example meets an environmental explanation of behavior because it relies on observable environmental events (i.e., her mom provides juice contingent on her asking for it) and it relies on the interaction between Jill and her environment.

Teaching points and strategies:

If the team member does not respond correctly to at least two of the above examples, use the following points and strategies to teach them to distinguish between these types of explanations. Continue providing examples until the team member is able to respond correctly to at least two of them.

  • Have them provide the definitions:

    • “A mentalistic explanation of behavior relies on hypothetical constructs or explanatory fictions to account for some portion of causality.”

      • Explanatory fictions take the place of observable events, are hypothetical, and do not attribute to a functional account. Examples include: “intelligence,” “associations” “awareness.”

      • Hypothetical constructs are unobservable processes. Examples include “temperament” “personality,” “the superego.”

    • “An environmental explanation of behavior relies of observable environmental events and person-environment interactions to account for causality.”

      • An environmental explanation is often more parsimonious, more action-oriented, more pragmatic, more likely to lead to effective change, less likely to lead to circular reasoning, more likely to be scientifically testable.

  • Talk the team member through the reason a behavior analyst would want to use environmental explanations of behavior and avoid mentalistic ones.


You may direct the team member to these resources if additional study is needed and use them yourself to generate new examples and obtain more teaching points and strategies.

  • Cooper, J.O., Heron, T.E., & Heward, W.L. (2007). Applied behavior analysis (2ndEd.) (pp. 10-14). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Appendix C

Sample Performance-Based Competency

Design and describe a functional analysis protocol; Graph and interpret the results

The team member should bring a permanent product to supervision that contains the following:

  • Informed consent from consumer

  • Evidence of incorporation of information from descriptive assessment

  • An operational definition of the target behavior(s)

    • Clear description of which behaviors are to be included for contingency manipulation or data collection only

  • A description of the measurement system

  • A description of & rationale for each test condition

    • There must be a control condition

    • Starts with basic conditions (alone/no interaction, attention, play, demand) and individualizes conditions only based on DA results

    • Only includes tangible if strong evidence to do so

  • Specification of relevant materials per condition

    • Preference or demand assessment used for all conditions

  • A statement about session order

  • Discrimination aids

  • Safety criteria with termination criteria if behaviors are potentially dangerous

  • A plan for training staff to implement all conditions utilizing BST approach

The team member should also provide a rationale for selection of that type of functional analysis (see Iwata & Dozier, 2008 for details).

The team member should bring a graph of a completed functional analysis and interpret the results

Note: If the team member brings a hypothetical protocol and graph, have him/her run a brief (e.g., 2 min) mock test condition or two

Teaching points and strategies:

Consider having the team member observe and practice with a team member who is proficient in this area to gain more experience in creating and conducting functional analyses. Create many hypothetical examples and break the pieces of the FA process into small steps and work on one step at a time until proficient (e.g., spend one supervision session focusing on creating the operational definitions for the FA. Once proficient, practice describing a measurement system etc.).


You may direct the team member to these resources if additional study is needed and use them yourself to generate new examples and obtain more teaching points and strategies.

  • Call, N. A., Pabico, R. S., & Lomas, J. (2009). Use of latency to problem behavior to evaluate demands for inclusion in functional analyses. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42, 723-728.

  • Cooper, J.O., Heron, T.E., & Heward, W.L. (2007). Applied behavior analysis (2ndEd.) (pp. 500-524). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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Appendix D

Potential Study Guide for Journal Clubs

  1. List two recent changes in the BACB supervision and experience requirements that are pertinent to the supervisor’s preparation to supervise.

  2. Explain why a detailed and clear supervision contract is a critical tool to help with establishing an effective supervisory relationship.

  3. List three critical pieces of information that should be included in a contract for supervision.

  4. Explain how having a list of competencies related to the BACB task list helps to structure the supervision experience and why this is important.

  5. What are three strategies you might use to evaluate the effects of the supervision that is being provided?

  6. Why is it important to continue the mentorship relationship beyond the completion of the required experience hours and how might the supervisor facilitate the continued relationship?

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.


Author Note

Tyra Sellers is now at Utah State University. These recommended practices were developed as part of the Clinical Standards initiative at Trumpet Behavioral Health.


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Articles from Behavior Analysis in Practice are provided here courtesy of Association for Behavior Analysis International


Aba supervision requirements

Changes to BACB Supervision: What You Need to Know

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) supervision is necessary to ensure that practitioners are correctly implementing services and are developing professionally. The Behavior Analysis Certification Board® (BACB®) requires supervision for those seeking to become Board Certified Behavior Analysts® (BCBA®) or Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts® (BCaBA®). The BACB also requires ongoing supervision for BCaBAs and for Registered Behavior Technicians™ (RBT®).

In December 2018, the BACB announced changes to supervision content and supervisor qualifications, as well as requirements for supervising trainees, RBTs and BCaBAs. While most of these changes go into effect November 2019, some were effective as of January 2019.

Changes in Effect Now

The BCBA/BCaBA Experience Standards: Monthly System went into effect in January. In preparing for major changes to fieldwork standards coming in 2022, the BACB decided that implementing the monthly system now would provide supervisors and trainees more flexibility than the previous weekly/biweekly system.

Under the new monthly system, supervisors and trainees can develop their own system for documenting supervision experiences. Individualized systems acknowledge that supervision experiences are diverse and therefore documentation of these experiences should differ as well. In addition to individualized systems, supervisors and supervisees must complete the BACB monthly experience form and the final experience form.

While the number of supervision contacts and hours remains the same, there are now explicit guidelines and restrictions for trainee supervision. No more than half of supervision hours can be held in a group format. Trainees must also be observed working with a client at least one time during each monthly supervisory period. While in-person and on-site observation is preferred, it is acceptable to use recorded video or live video conferencing.

New qualifications of those who can supervise RBTs went into effect January 2019. RBTs can now be supervised by a “noncertified RBT supervisor.” Noncertified RBT supervisors are licensed behavioral health providers in good standing who can document experience in ABA and who have completed the eight-hour BACB supervisor training. They must create a BACB Gateway account and complete the noncertified RBT supervisor form with attestation from their organization’s “responsible certificant.”

A responsible certificant ensures that all BACB requirements are met across an organization. Currently, BCaBAs may serve in this role. Beginning November 2019, only BCBAs and BCBA-Ds may serve as responsible certificants.

Changes Taking Effect November 2019

The addition of noncertified RBT supervisors highlighted the need for clarifying the relationship between the responsible certificants (BCBAs or BCBA-Ds) and the RBT. Responsible certificants must have client-specific knowledge so they can provide effective clinical direction. As of November 2019, responsible certificants, supervisors and RBTs should be employed by the same organization or have a contractual relationship with the RBT’s client.

Starting in November, the eight-hour training required for supervisors must be based on the Supervisor Training Curriculum Outline 2.0. The current training curriculum includes content for both supervision of trainees and ongoing supervision of RBTs and BCaBAs, but it does not distinguish the differences in expectations for both types of supervisee. The new curriculum distinguishes between items specific to trainees and items specific to those receiving ongoing supervision.

The newer version of the training curriculum also provides more explicit details of what supervisors must do in order to create an effective supervision experience. It includes a section on preparing for supervision and information about the outcomes of ineffective supervision.

The curriculum details how to deliver effective feedback and behavioral skills training. It also lists observable expected responses from supervisees during feedback sessions that are indicators of supervision effectiveness. Specific examples of products that demonstrate a supervisee’s application of knowledge are provided within curriculum items.

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of this enhanced curriculum outline is the list of research and other resources. Behavior analytic supervision research is a newly emerging area of study, so there has not been a great deal of literature published to guide supervisors. This is beginning to change. Supervisors can look forward to more resources to use when providing both ongoing and trainee supervision.

The Impact of the Changes

Supervision is the process by which new professionals are ushered into the profession and those who provide direct services maintain and improve their skills and decision making. As the numbers of practitioners continues to grow, the need to clarify the definition of an effective ABA professional does also. The BACB’s changes to supervision offer both supervisors and supervisees a better understanding of practice expectations and an opportunity to do even a better job of serving clients and their families.

Tracking BCBA/BCaBA Supervision Hours

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