Professional Organizations in Applied Behavior Analysis

The ABA industry comprises a variety of independent professional organizations which exist to serve and support their members. The four most commonly found are certifying bodies, professional associations, trade associations, and accrediting bodies. Together, they provide a variety of necessary functions for their respective constituents.

BHCOE recognizes the immense value these groups can provide. We have put together a brief overview of each organization and the roles that each plays.

1. Certifying Body

Certification and licensure bodies exist to meet the professional licensure needs of their individual (read: person) constituents. Just as an accrediting body provides standards for a company or organization, a certifying body verifies that individual professionals have the appropriate level of competence and expertise to effectively perform their roles. Additionally, certifying bodies are often at the forefront of industry research and training. They work with federal, state, government, and third-party entities to enhance recognition of their credentialed professionals. A hallmark of a credible credentialing program is that they hold accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Industry Example: Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB)

2. Professional Association

Professional associations come in many shapes and sizes. They are characterized typically by shared interest in a particular job or field. Professional associations place great effort on the development, training, and education of their constituents. Their aim is to improve their respective industry’s capabilities and effectiveness.

A well-known hallmark of professional associations is the offering of conferences and trainings, designed to elevate the knowledge among a shared group. These offerings can also provide professional association members with continuing education units (CEUs) to meet the licensing and credentialing needs of our next group, certifying bodies. In Applied Behavior Analysis, professional associations can be national or local.

Industry Examples: Association of Professional Behavior Analysts (APBA) (national), Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) (national), California Association for Behavior Analysis (CalABA) (local)

3. Trade Association

A trade association engages in activities, such as advertising, education, publishing, and political donations, though its focus often hinges on collaboration between companies. These groups also work to influence public policy through lobbying and leveraging regulatory measures within their particular industry for the benefit of their members.

A trade association is founded and funded by the businesses it represents and often acts as a collective voice for companies. A large, common example is the WTO (World Trade Association) that oversees trade rules between countries. In the ABA industry, trade associations can be regional, or national. A trade association is unregulated and does not hold certification or accreditation.

Industry Example: Council of Autism Service Providers (CASP) (national), National Coalition for Access to Autism Services (NCAAS) (national), Massachusettes Coalition for Behavior Analysis Providers (MassCAP) (local), Indiana Providers of Effective Autism Treatment (InPEAT) (local)

4. Accrediting Body

An accrediting body is motivated to define and measure quality in a particular field. These institutions have an objective external group that examines and evaluates a program or institution to ensure they meet a set of standards established by experts in the field. There are several types of accrediting bodies, including voluntary associations based on membership, government or government-commissioned organizations, and inter-institutional networks. A hallmark of a credible accreditation program is that they hold accreditation by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) which promoted transparency of how standards are developed and an opportunity for public commentary.

With members originating from a transparency committee formed by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), BHCOE was established as a for-profit voluntary association in 2015. BHCOE’s accreditation requirement and standards undergo regular review according to American National Standards Institute (ANSI) requirements for standards development. The hallmark of this process ensures standards are developed in an equitable, accessible, and responsive manner.

Industry Example: Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE)

This structure of certifying bodies, professional associations, trade associations, and accreditation bodies can be found in almost every industry including the mental health field. While each entity provides differing services, they all add to the health and advancement of the business environment.

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