The Top 5 Challenges of an RBT… And Their Solutions

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By Brian Kaminski, Registered Behavioral Technician

Guest Author

Standing at the front lines in the treatment of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the Registered Behavioral Technician (RBT) has a multifaceted job description – with it’s associated hardships and triumphs.

Sandwiched between caring for the day to day needs of their client (and family) while facilitating evidence based programming delegated by their supervising Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), the RBT can often experience job stresses mounting from both directions – whether due to professional factors (data collection and behavioral interventions) social factors (managing parental expectations and overcoming treatment barriers), or personal factors (balancing own responsibilities and relationships).  

Often the first professional to field a concerned parent’s question, observe a new challenging behavior, and implement comprehensive treatment methods, an RBT’s ability, or inability, to appropriately refer, coordinate, and manage their clients’ plan of care can have lasting impacts on outcomes.

Below are what I believe to be five of the most common challenges facing RBTs today, with potential solutions to each.

Challenge #1 – Competing stressors

Despite the before-mentioned stress factors, the RBT is capable of far more than a “grin and bear it” mentality – they can utilize the behavior analytic principles found in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), making them far more equipped to cope with negative emotions brought on by job stress.

Instead of succumbing to anxiety when faced with an upcoming challenge, RBTs can contact the present moment, spend time to clarify their values, take committed actions according to these values towards behaviors they find meaningful, while mindfully accepting any accompanying discomfort.

This is aided by seeing one’s “self” as constantly changing and not defined by any one feeling, while viewing negative thoughts and feelings not by what they appear to be (reflections of reality), but as they really are (mere verbal behavior). Click here for a podcast featuring DJ Moran on ACT.  

Challenge #2 – Communication Obstacles

For RBTs working with clients in an Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) context, there can be a lot to communicate with the supervising BCBA on a weekly basis – sometimes far more than the allotted supervisory period allows.

Add in the complexities of a client receiving multiple services and scheduling becomes a bit of a juggling act.  That is why incorporating organizational measures such as Google Calendar and Sheets for the treatment team to manage may prove beneficial, in which a change by one party can be viewed by all.

Challenge #3 – Ethical Decision Making

As a result of the extensive nature of EIBI, there is a high likelihood that RBTs will encounter an ethical dilemma at some point in their career.  For those delivering in-home services, this probability is likely greater due to their close proximity with families, where dual-relationships could potentially develop if professional boundaries are not carefully maintained.

One of the best ways to influence ethical decision-making is a strong understanding and adherence to the Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts (available here).  RBTs and BCBAs should be encouraged to form strong partnerships and develop a united front against potential ethical violations.

Challenge #4 – Job Demands

Aside from the immediate treatment needs of their client, RBTs have many other job-related tasks that require their attention (e.g., billing submissions, material design, progress reports, etc.). To effectively meet these requirements and ensure organizational health, companies should consider adopting Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practices which reinforce and incentivize proactive behaviors on projects and deadlines, which makes for a happier, more productive workplace. Click here for 10 steps for a successful incentive system.  

Challenge #5 – Evolving Child Needs

Each stage of developmental progress for a client brings with it a new set of challenges to be met by families and service providers. Thus, providing quality care for individuals with ASD often requires a community – RBTs should seek to establish rapports with other professionals and educators, advocate on their client’s behalf, and stand out as a representative for the field of ABA. 

While the challenges facing RBTs are apparent, the fruits brought about by their continual efforts resonate deeply in the lives of families affected by ASD. RBTs are emerging as dedicated professionals and integral members of the behavior analytic community.

If you are an RBT, we want to hear from you!  Share your experiences in the comments below, and be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

2 Comments on "The Top 5 Challenges of an RBT… And Their Solutions"

  1. Nice article, Brian.

  2. This looks fantastic, especially for RBTs who are leaving the honeymoon phase and beginning to get in touch with the more challenging aspects of the job. I’ll be sharing.

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