Applied Behavioral Analysis is often used with children dealing with autism to develop the emotional and social skills that will help them in their environment.

What is Applied Behavioral Analysis?

Applied Behavioral Analysis is a therapeutic approach developed in the 1960s which has become the predominant therapy for children on the autism spectrum. ABA – or Applied Behavioral Analysis – includes one-on-one interpersonal work between a child and a therapist in learning and practicing particular skills that will benefit them in their lives. These skills include:

  • Increasing social abilities, such as communication and eye contact.
  • Learning new skills and completing tasks once begun.
  • Reducing negative behaviors, including ‘flapping’ and other repetitive actions, as well as self-harming behaviors.
  • Learning personal skills such as self-control and self-regulation
  • Transferring skills learned in one environment to another

Applied Behavioral Analysis is based upon the study of how human behaviors are learned, and how the therapist can work individually with a person to learn those skills that will help them to have full and fruitful lives in society. The therapist begins by evaluating the person to establish a treatment plan, and tailor it individually to the person for optimal learning. Therapists can work within schools, medical settings, community centers, or homes to continue the treatment.

When looking for an Applied Behavioral Analysis therapist, looks for one with the letters BCBA after their name, as it indicates that the individual is a licensed clinical therapist with additional training and experience in applied behavior analysis, and board-certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). At AC Cares, we have resources available for parents, including qualified Applied Behavioral Analysis therapists and programs to refer.

The umbrella of Applied Behavioral Analysis includes the areas of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

Applied Behavioral Analysis is based upon the study of how human behaviors are learned, and how the therapist can work individually with a person to learn those skills that will help them to have full and fruitful lives in society. The therapist begins by evaluating the person to establish a treatment plan, and tailor it individually to the person for optimal learning. Therapists can work within schools, medical settings, community centers, or homes to continue the treatment.

When looking for an Applied Behavioral Analysis therapist, looks for one with the letters BCBA after their name, as it indicates that the individual is a licensed clinical therapist with additional training and experience in applied behavior analysis, and board-certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). At AC Cares, we have resources available for parents, including qualified Applied Behavioral Analysis therapists and programs to refer.

The umbrella of Applied Behavioral Analysis includes the areas of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

What is CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – or CBT – is a type of talk therapy that focuses upon a person’s thoughts and how they are affecting behaviors. It is intended to be short-term, solutions-based therapy. The goal of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is to identify the various thoughts beliefs and attitudes which are negatively affecting a person’s feelings and behaviors, and learn new ways of behavior which will produce positive results. CBT can be employed with various conditions, including depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and others.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy includes a series of steps, or goals, to help a person. These include:

  • Uncovering the negative ways that a person is thinking which is leading to psychological issues
  • Learning new and beneficial ways of thinking and behaving which will lead to positive results.
  • Developing new habits that will assist a person in acting in a better way in the future

Some of the strategies a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist may employ in this program are:

  • Helping a person to recognize those negative or distorted thoughts within themselves, and learning to evaluate these thoughts against the backdrop of reality.
  • Learning to recognize and understand negative behaviors and motivations in others, and how they affect a person.
  • Learning and embracing skills for dealing with difficult situations, such as problem-solving skills.
  • Developing confidence in one’s self and one’s abilities for dealing with difficult situations.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy – or DBT – is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – or CBT – that was originally developed to deal with borderline personality disorder, but has also been used successfully with a range of other disorders, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – or PTSD – as well as self-destructive behaviors such as eating disorders and substance use. The goal of DBT – or Dialectical Behavior Therapy – is to help someone to live in the moment, cope with stress, control their emotions, and improve their relationships with other people. Dialectical Behavior Therapy was designed by Dr. Marsha Linehan to deal with complex emotional issues.

There are four modules that DBT focuses on in working a person though toward healing. These are:

  • Mindfulness
  • Interpersonal effectiveness
  • Distress tolerance
  • Emotion regulation

Mindfulness is associated with living in the moment. A person learns to focus upon what is happening inside – such as thoughts and feelings – as well as outside themselves – including their surroundings – in a non judgemental way. Rather than behave impulsively, mindfulness teaches one to stay calm and avoid negative thoughts and behaviors.

Interpersonal effectiveness involves one’s relationship with other people. If mindfulness is focused upon one’s relationship with one’s own self, interpersonal effectiveness focuses upon one’s relationship with others. A person learns to communicate more effectively with others while always respecting themselves, and being more assertive in a relationship in a positive and healthy manner. A person will develop skills to deal with challenging people and difficult conversations.

Distress tolerance deals with crisis situations, and strategies to deal with the current situation. Some situations evoke particular emotional responses, and distress tolerance utilizes different strategies for coping, including self-soothing, distraction, altering thought patterns, and planning specific behaviors to improve the moment. Armed with various techniques and strategies, people are empowered and able to cope with the different stressful situations which may occur in their lives in a more positive and healthy manner.

Emotion regulation deals with acquiring skills and strategies to identify and manage emotions, empowering a person to change undesirable emotions and manage difficult situations. By understanding emotional events in advance and planning for response, people can become less vulnerable to distress and difficult experiences in the future.

A therapist may recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Dialectical Behavior Therapy for a child after a psychological evaluation for kids has been completed. At that time, behavioral therapy – as well as additional special needs services may be recommended.