The field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) continues growing across the country. More and more caring professionals seek certification as Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs). The BACB has stringent requirements that must be met to achieve certification. In addition to course completion, candidates must receive a substantial amount of supervised experience completed by a qualified BCBA supervisor.
While it’s often possible to accumulate your supervised experience within your employment setting, you may choose to seek out a BCBA supervisor on your own for a variety of reasons. The BACB offers the ability to search the bank of certificants to find a BCBA in your area who offers supervision. Here we explore top considerations when searching for a great BCBA supervisor.
Can you get BCBA supervision for free?
If your employer has a qualified BCBA on staff, yes, you can get BCBA supervision for free. However, this often isn’t the best choice.
- The BCBA on staff may have limited experience, and may only have experience with your current employer.
- You may not feel comfortable being open with concerns or questions involving your employer or clients.
- You might decide that your personality and learning style don’t blend with that of the staff BCBA.
- The BCBA on staff might not be as skilled or knowledgeable as other option.
How can you get a BCBA supervisor?
Often once you have passed the exam, your opportunities to learn from other BCBAs becomes limited. Your supervision experience is your gateway to getting your dream role and feeling comfortable in that role. Although it can be difficult to find an amazing supervisor, it’s worth the time, effort and expense to ensure that your supervision experience puts you on the right path.
There are two parts to finding a BCBA supervisor:
- Conduct a search for a BCBA
- Ask questions of potential BCBA supervisors
While both are important, asking the right questions up front can lead to a better experience, and ensure you work with the right BCBA for you.
Conducting a Search for a BCBA Supervisor
It can be intimidating to approach a BCBA to ask for supervision. As a student it’s easy to feel inferior, but remember that the BCBA you are asking also had to seek supervision. The quality of supervision impacts your ability to develop the skills you need to excel in the field. It’s important enough to take the necessary steps to find the right supervisor for you.
It can be intimidating to approach a BCBA to ask for supervision. As a student it’s easy to feel inferior, but remember that the BCBA you are asking also had to seek supervision. The quality of supervision impacts your ability to develop the skills you need to excel in the field. Because of this, you might be tempted to limit your search to supervisors who advertise on the internet. This gives you a level of comfort that they’re approachable, but they might not be the best supervisor for you. Many great BCBAs willing to do supervision don’t have a website, or even advertise this service.
Whether you start your search with Google or go directly to the BACB website, at some point you will need to navigate the BACB search form. Never sign a contract with a supervisor without doing this important step to validate information a potential supervisor gives you.
When you navigate to the BACB website, you will see an option to “Find a Certificant.” Clicking on a link brings you to the search page where you have several search options.
Many BCBA supervisors are willing to provide remote supervision. If you are comfortable with technology, remote supervision greatly expands your options for supervisors. Maybe search for a BCBA in your region or even across the country. Technology makes access to supervisors with an incredible wealth of knowledge readily available at the click of a few buttons.
The BACB also offers a feature for you to search by name. If you know the name of a BCBA and want to confirm that they offer supervision, simply enter their last name in the search. The images below show what you will find when conducting a search by name.
BACB Search Results
When you click the name of the certificant you see more details about the certificant (see the expanded view below). You see the location of the BCBA along with information about the certification cycle. The information includes original certification date as well as information about supervision. In this example, the BCBA has agreed to provide supervision for both BCaBAs and BCBA candidate. The distinction is notable because BCaBAs require ongoing supervision throughout their practice.
Questions to Ask Your BCBA Supervisor
BCBA supervision isn’t just a requirement to become certified, it’s also one of the most valuable ways to gain expertise in the field and round out your education. Although you may have the opportunity to receive some or all of your supervision hours through your employer, it is often in your best interest to connect with at least one other BCBA to supplement what you might receive for free.
When conducting your search, don’t limit yourself to the first supervisor you find. Contact several and ask the following questions from each potential BCBA supervisor:
- How many years experience do you have as a BCBA supervisor?
- What type of experience do you have working in the field?
- Can you tell me about your supervision style?
- Do you follow a curriculum?
- What’s your availability to perform supervision?
- What are your fees for BCBA supervision?
- Where are you located?
How many years experience do you have as a BCBA supervisor?
With the explosion within the field, you will find many new BCBAs offering to provide supervision. Beginning with the 2022 certification cycle, the BACB will begin requiring that BCBAs have at least 1 year of practice prior to providing supervision to new candidates. Having at least this minimum amount of practical experience ensures that the BCBA supervisor has valuable experience to share with the supervisee.
One advantage to working with a supervisor who is relatively new to the field is their enthusiasm. Passion for the field may deteriorate over time. A supervisor dedicated to advancement of the field will keep you motivated and excited about your work.
Alternatively, a supervisor with many years of experience in the field offers a reservoir of examples to pull from. Some BCBA supervisors really have “seen it all.” Learning from their experiences gives you a superior head start. Many of these highly experienced supervisors may be more set in their ways and less flexible in their approach to challenging situations. They may be more black and white in their responses and less apt to encourage you to think through situations and come to your own conclusions.
There is no set amount of experience that makes a supervisor “just right.” Use years of experience only as a framework when considering other factors. Consider what is most important to you in your supervision experience.
What type of experience do you have working in the field?
Make a list of your career goals. Do you want to work in a clinic, home or school environment? Do you want to work with adults, children, or teens? Are you considering a career in OBM? Search for a supervisor who has a variety of experiences within the field to get a well-rounded experience. Even if you know what setting you want to work in, learning about different settings makes you more marketable and expands your understanding of the technology.
Often, new professionals believe they know exactly what they want to do with their certification only to discover that the experience isn’t what they had expected. Working with a supervisor with a variety of experiences allows you to pick their brain about each experience. A good supervisor provides an objective view of each experience, encouraging you to try the setting that you believe is best for you.
Can you tell me about your supervision style?
Every BCBA has a unique supervision style, although they all should use best practices in supervision which includes Behavioral Skills Training. Some BCBAs have a more direct style in which they tell you what to do in given situations. Others prefer to take an indirect approach and encourage creative problem solving. BCBAs vary widely in a variety of qualities including flexibility, creativity, acceptance of aversive interventions, drive, structured vs naturalistic teaching, etc.
Take into consideration the supervisor’s personality. While you won’t know everything about the supervisor in a quick meeting, make sure you ask questions about:
- How they deliver feedback
- What their expectations are of you
- Their preferred method of communication
- How much time they’ll have to meet with you
- How you can provide them with feedback if you’re struggling
- How many supervisees they work with at any given time
- Will they teach you what they don’t teach you in school like calling insurance companies, writing appeals, presenting data in meetings, writing insurance specific treatment plans, determining appropriate hours/week of services, discharge plans, working with difficult teams, etc.
Include questions that are of high value to you, even if you are nervous about how the prospective supervisor will respond. Remember, this is your field experience and the best chance you have to succeed in the field. If you’re uncomfortable asking these questions, then this supervisor might not be the best fit for you.
Do you follow a curriculum?
Some supervisors follow a curriculum, like the one in our RISE Supervision Program, to ensure the supervision experience covers all items on the BCBA task list. This provides a well-rounded experience, however some supervisors prefer a more open-ended approach. Find out how the prospective supervisor conducts their sessions. If the potential supervisor conducts meetings with no structure you should consider this a red flag.
What’s your availability to perform supervision?
When interviewing potential supervisors make sure that their availability aligns with yours. If they are only willing so provide supervision during times when you have class, the arrangement will be frustrating for both of you. Many BCBAs work full time and have a variety of projects. You need a supervisor who makes your supervision a priority in their schedule.
What are your fees for BCBA supervision?
The cost of supervision varies widely. As stated earlier, your employer may offer supervision. While this saves on the expense, it limits your experience. Other BCBAs charge up to $200+ per hour for supervision. This cost adds up quickly. Talk to a variety of potential supervisors to learn the range that’s available to you before making a final decision.
The table below compares prices effective January 2022 for many options, although not all organizations make the cost of their supervision transparent. Note that this is for reference only and we are not recommending this services. Selection of a BCBA supervisor should be based on much more than the cost.
It may be possible to receive a large portion of your supervision through your current employer and supplement with paid supervision. While you might find it difficult to justifying paying for supervision when you get it for free, it may be well worth the expense in the long run.
Also, when reaching out consider asking them about alternative options such as monthly payments, discounts for paying in advance or for meeting as part of a cohort.
Where are you located?
When looking at the location of the supervisor, consider whether you prefer in-person or remote supervision. If there are a limited number of BCBAs in your area, consider the impact of remote supervision on your learning experience. Distance learning has opened the door to experiences that weren’t available a decade ago. Would you enjoy learning about how ABA is different in a different part of the country? Consider the pros and cons of both options for you before deciding either is best.
Do I need to find a BCBA supervisor near me?
The BACB allows BCBAs to perform supervision remotely, so you do not need to limit yourself to BCBA supervisors near you. When participating in remote supervision it’s important to ensure you remain HIPAA compliant in all your communications, including the way in which you share files. Still, consider the location of the BCBA supervisor to ensure they will be available during the hours you want to meet with them.
Receiving Supervision from More than One BCBA Supervisor
The BACB recommends that you have a variety of different supervised field experience prior to sitting for your exam. Receiving supervision from different BCBA supervisors creates a well-rounded supervision experience. Every BCBA is unique with different strengths and weaknesses. Learning from different personalities and through different styles of supervision will help you adjust to the various needs of your supervisees when you become a supervisor.
This doesn’t come without its own unique challenges. Since all BCBAs have different experiences and there is usually more than 1 right answer to most questions, having more than 1 BCBA supervisor can make the material more confusing.
When working with more than 1 BCBA supervisor, you can avoid some of the confusion by dividing the BCBA task list among the supervisors. If each supervisor provides guidance around one portion of the task list, you avoid receiving answers that conflict with each other. If you decide to take this route, make sure that you are very familiar with the most recent version of the task list. For information about the BCBA task list, read our post: BACB Task List 4th vs 5th Edition: Identifying Changes for the BCaBA/BCBA Level.