The most common practice of applied behavior analysis (ABA) today is with individuals with autism who are receiving intensive ABA services. The necessity of having trained individuals who implement these services is critical. The Behavior Analysis Certification Board® (BACB) recognized this and created the Registered Behavior Technician™ (RBT®) Credential, which requires aspiring RBTs to undergo a rigorous 40-hour training and pass a competency assessment supervised by a BCBA®, BCaBA® or BCBA-D™.

Since 2013, the number of individuals who hold the RBT credential has increased at a phenomenal rate. In 2016, there were 25,853 individuals who held that credential. As of July 2019, there are 60,685 RBTs in good standing with the BACB. The demand for even more RBTs continues to grow as the population of individuals needing services is increasing, payer sources are demanding that credentialed individuals provide services, and there is growing recognition that the work of RBTs is valuable and could be useful in other settings like schools.

Changes to the RBT Requirements

With the ever-increasing numbers of RBTs and the visibility of RBT services, the BACB decided to review the current standards for obtaining and maintaining the RBT credential. They commissioned a committee of subject matter experts to make recommendations. In December 2018, the board voted to approve the recommendations.

Here is an overview of those changes.

Task List and Exam

The RBT® Task List serves as a guide for those providing initial RBT training and for RBTs in their day-to-day practice. The BACB made a few changes. Additions to the task list include:

  • Implementing shaping procedures
  • Implementing token economies
  • Actively seeking clinical direction from a supervisor in a timely manner

These additions help to clarify expectations for RBT practice and help to ensure that support for implementing interventions is in place.

The BACB also removed three tasks:

  • Implementing stimulus fading was removed because there were concerns about it being too advanced for entry level RBTs.
  • Assisting with the training of stakeholders was removed because of a concern about RBTs being incorrectly perceived as being permitted to train others.
  • Complying with applicable legal, regulatory and workplace reporting requirements was removed because content in the new ethics code makes that item redundant.

The BACB conducted a survey of RBTs and Responsible Certificants in September 2018 to validate the task list content. Survey respondents rated items according to their importance and rate of occurrence. Results indicated that all items were important and implemented frequently, so all 37 items remained.

The changes to the original task list resulted in the validated and more refined RBT Task List 2.0. These changes take effect November 2019.  RBT examinations administered starting in November 2019 will be based on this revised task list.

Training

Minor changes to RBT training also take effect November 2019. The length of training remains at 40 hours and must be completed within 180 days and in no fewer than 5 days. This guideline was put into place to ensure that RBT candidates did not extend training so long that it would be hard to retain the information and also do not cram too much training into a short amount of time.

The training must include 3 hours on ethics and 1 hour on RBT supervision requirements as well. While the original RBT training also required 3 hours on ethics, the changes highlight the newly created RBT Ethics Code and the necessity to seek out supervision for clinical direction.

New requirements regarding the use of assistant trainers for RBTs have already gone into effect. Assistant trainers who are knowledgeable and proficient in the training material may deliver some or all of the training under the supervision of a BCaBA, BCBA or BCBA-D.

Competency Assessment

The BACB also made some significant changes to how the RBT® Competency Assessment is delivered. As of November 2019, the board will make a distinction between competency assessments for RBTs needing to complete it before taking the exam and those who need it to renew their RBT credential.

In addition to the previous assessment requirements, RBT candidates undergoing an initial competency assessment will be required to demonstrate three tasks with clients under the Skill Acquisition and Behavior Reduction category. RBTs undergoing renewal competency assessment will be required to demonstrate five skills  with clients from the categories of Skill Acquisition and Behavior Reduction, Measurement and Professionalism and Requirements.

Assistant assessors who are knowledgeable about ABA content may administer all or some of the competency assessment under the supervision of a BCaBA, BCBA, or BCBA-D. This change is already in effect.

The content of the competency assessments changed somewhat as well. Implementing stimulus fading procedures was removed due to concerns about it being too advanced for some entry-level RBTs. Assisting with functional assessments was also removed due to concerns about it being vaguely written and left open to many different interpretations.

Furthermore, the BACB made the following additions to the competency assessment:

  • Collect ABC data.
  • Implement shaping procedures.
  • Implement token economy procedures.

And the board made these additional changes:

  • Maintain client dignity is now demonstrated through interview format.
  • Maintain professional boundaries is now conducted through interview format .
  • Familiarity with supervision requirements is conducted through interview format.
  • Seeking clinical direction from a supervisor is conducted through interview format.

The changes to the content on the competency assessment largely parallel those changes made to the RBT Task List.

Supervision

While the amount and structure of supervision remains the same, the BACB made some significant changes to supervision requirements. The RBT and the supervisor must be employed by the same organization or there should be a contractual relationship with the RBT’s client. The latter circumstance would typically happen when a family directly hires RBTs to implement an ABA program. The RBT must have supervision, so the family would need to contract with someone qualified to provide supervision as well.

The definition of qualified supervisors has expanded somewhat. Individuals with a verified behavioral health professional license may serve as RBT supervisors if:

  • Their license is current and without sanctions.
  • Their ability to practice ABA is verified.
  • They complete an 8-hour BACB Supervisor Training.
  • They complete the Noncertified RBT Supervisor Form.
  • They establish a BACB gateway account.

RBT Supervisors who are not BCBAs or BCBA-Ds must be supervised by an RBT Requirements Coordinator. A requirements coordinator holds a BCBA or BCBA-D credential and ensures that supervision requirements are met across an organization.

Ethics

The last major change to the RBT credentialing process involves ethics. The new RBT Ethics Code replaces the items on the Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts that were previously designated as relevant to RBTs. This new stand-alone code does not differ significantly from the previous ethical standards. It merely highlights the RBTs’ ethical obligations and presents them in a clear manner.

How the Changes Will Affect Practice

These recent changes and those that will go into effect in November 2019 will not affect the day-to-day practice of an RBT significantly. The changes to the task list clarified expectations and expanded opportunities for supervision. These changes will result in improved access to the clinical resources needed to ensure high-quality services.

RBTs, RBT Supervisors and Responsible Certificants will benefit from the clarification and refinements to the expectations. As the demand for ABA services continues to increase, alterations to practice requirements and guidelines will need to be made. We, as members of our field, learn more and more each day about the impact of ABA on individuals, organizations and the world in general. Examining our practices and making changes to what we do based on what we learn only makes us more ethical, more competent and more impactful on the lives of those we are charged with helping.

Rhonda Davin, Ph.D., BCBA-D, BCBA/SME

Dr. Rhonda Davin is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with over 25 years of experience in the fields of developmental disabilities and autism. She has served the field as a teacher, college professor, consultant and expert witness. She started Behavior Consulting Services which provided direct behavior analytic services to children with autism and their families. She has supervised and mentored several behavior analysts and service providers currently practicing in the field today. Dr. Davin has also provided technical assistance for large scale organizational change efforts in the area of Positive Behavior Supports. She is currently working at Relias as the BCBA Subject Matter Expert and Continuing Education Coordinator for Relias to the Behavior Analysis Certification Board.

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