Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a therapy that is most well known to help children with autism learn skills and lessen problematic behavior like hurting themselves. It has also been used with other age ranges and disorders. All forms of ABA are based on the idea that rewarding certain behaviors will lead children to repeat those behaviors. Early forms of ABA focused on breaking skills into very small steps and rewarding kids for doing each step correctly. In the past, kids might also have been punished for doing a step incorrectly. Punishment is no longer used in any form of ABA. Tailored to individual needs, ABA is delivered in a variety of settings, including school, home, clinic, and other community settings.

Last reviewed: 2023

Intended Outcomes:

The goal of treatment is to help people function as independently and successfully as possible. For example, depending on the individual, outcomes for ABA may include the following:
  • Increased language and communication skills
  • Improved attention, focus, social skills, memory, and academics
  • Decreased problem behaviors

Continuum of Care:

Topic Areas:
Anxiety, Behavioral Health/Mental Health, Depression, Disruptive Behaviors, Intellectual Disabilities, Physical Health, Trauma

Adult (25+), Childhood (4-12), Early Childhood (0-3), Teen/Adolescent (13-18), Young Adult (19-24)

Geographic Locations:
Rural, Urban

Delivery Settings:

Cultural Considerations:
Limited research found involving diverse populations

Although most commonly used for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ABA can be used for any child, adolescent, or adult who could benefit from behavioral therapy. ABA can also be used with the following conditions:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Traumatic brain injury sufferers
  • substance abuse disorders
  • dementia
  • eating disorders
  • anger issues

A board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) provides ABA therapy services. To become a BCBA, the following is needed:

  • Earn a master’s degree or PhD in psychology or behavior analysis
  • Pass a national certification exam
  • Seek a state license to practice (in some states)
ABA therapy programs also involve therapists, or registered behavior technicians (RBTs). These therapists are trained and supervised by the BCBA. They work directly with children and adults with autism to practice skills and work toward the individual goals written by the BCBA. You may hear them referred to by a few different names: behavioral therapists, line therapists, behavior tech, etc. To learn more, see the Behavior Analyst Certification Board website.


Is Training Required?
Yes, see developer info

Who can provide the required training?
Get certified at

Program Costs (materials, training, etc.):
Yes, refer to program website

Program/Practice Website:

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research:

Muharib, R., Dowdy, A., Rajaraman, A., & Jessel, J. (2022). Contingency-based delay to reinforcement following functional communication training for autistic individuals: A multilevel meta-analysis. SAGE Publications.

Heath, C. D. C., McDaniel, T., Venkateswara, H., & Panchanathan, S. (2021). Improving communication skills of children with autism through support of applied behavioral analysis treatments using multimedia computing: A survey. Universal Access in the Information Society, 20(1), 13-30.

Rodgers, M., Simmonds, M., Marshall, D., Hodgson, R., Stewart, L. A., Rai, D., Wright, K., Ben-Itzchak, E., Eikeseth, S., Eldevik, S., Kovshoff, H., Magiati, I., Osborne, L. A., Reed, P., Vivanti, G., Zachor, D., & Couteur, A. L. (2021). Intensive behavioural interventions based on applied behaviour analysis for young children with autism: An international collaborative individual participant data meta-analysis. Autism : The International Journal of Research and Practice, 25(4), 1137-1153.

Asta, L., & Persico, A. M. (2022). Differential predictors of response to early start denver model vs. early intensive behavioral intervention in young children with autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Brain Sciences, 12(11), 1499.

Marino, F., Chila, P., Failla, C., Crimi, I., Minutoli, R., Puglisi, A., Arnao, A. A., Tartarisco, G., Ruta, L., Vagni, D., & Pioggia, G. (2020). Tele-assisted behavioral intervention for families with children with autism spectrum disorders: A randomized control trial. Brain Sciences, 10(9), 649.

Additional Sources:

Well-Supported by Research

WV Rating:
Well-Supported by Research
»WV Ratings Info

Rationale for Rating:

PLEASE NOTE: This program is considered 'well-supported by research' to improve outcomes for individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is considered 'promising' for individuals with disabilities, social-emotional learning deficits, and other issues/diagnoses.

Contraindications or Concerns:
None identified

Other Registries/Ratings

The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare:
Not On Registry

Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development:
Not On Registry

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness:
Not On Registry

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Model Programs Guide:
Not On Registry

Washington State Institute for Public Policy:
Not On Registry