Celebrating our new BCBAs, Claire and Elisha

Saturday, March 20 2021

Claire Birrell and Elisha Mont, two of Learning for Life’s Clinical Supervisors, have each officially become a BCBA (Board Certified Behaviour Analyst). Congratulations Claire and Elisha!

L4Life is so proud of their hard work and dedication to achieve this qualification and knowledge. It’s an exciting time for them both and L4Life, as they will greatly contribute to the growth and quality of the ABA services our organisation provides to children with ASD.

2021 - L4Life's Claire and Elisha become BCBAs

Below, Claire and Elisha share more about becoming BCBAs.

What is a BCBA?

Claire – A BCBA is a graduate-level practitioner who delivers behaviour analytic services. BCBAs use the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis to deliver evidence-based programs and strategies to improve socially significant behaviours (i.e. behaviours whose change will make a positive difference in that person’s life). They are bound by a strict ethical code that ensures they are operating to maximise benefit to their clients, treat others with respect and dignity, behave with integrity and operate within their competence.

Elisha – BCBA is not just an autism credential; BCBA’s use ABA in many fields: Education, Organisational Behaviour Management, Health and Fitness, Gerontology, Sleep, Addiction, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Forensics.

What does it take to become a BCBA?

Claire – It’s quite the process! To earn certification from the Behaviour Analyst Certification Board (BACB), one must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  1. Hold a graduate degree in behaviour analysis, psychology or education;
  2. Complete behaviour-analytic coursework containing at least 270 hours of specific content, with at least a passing grade of credit or above;
  3. 1,500 hours of supervised experience; and
  4. Pass the BCBA examination.

Monash’s relatively new Masters of Education (applied behaviour analysis) meets the criteria for steps 1 and 2. Step 3 requires careful logging of all relevant work hours, with at least 5% of those hours directly supervised by a BCBA supervisor. The supervisor acts as a mentor who gives feedback on observations, helps clarify difficult concepts, discusses ethical dilemmas etc. Finally, once steps 1 to 3 have been completed, all that is left is the infamous, notoriously difficult-to-pass, four hour exam. Studying for this exam was genuinely one of the most challenging undertakings of my life thus far, which made passing all the more sweet!

Are BCBAs the only people who run ABA programs?

Claire – No, they’re not. The BCBA certification is still relatively new in Australia. At L4Life, for example, our incredible team of program supervisors have various backgrounds and qualifications, (e.g. psychology, speech therapy, teaching etc.) which add invaluable knowledge and skill to their extensive experience in ABA. In countries where the BCBA certification is more established (i.e. the United States), it is increasingly standard practice that successful acquisition of a licence to practice ABA, requires a BCBA certification as well. .

What being a BCBA means to me:

Claire – Successfully becoming a BCBA has been an important milestone in my life –  it’s been quite the journey! I’m eternally grateful for all the support I’ve received from the L4Life community, from the parents who allowed me to record my meetings for supervision, to my colleagues for their ongoing encouragement (especially Pam Roy – whose idea it was in the first place!) and of course all the awesome little guys and girls who I continue to learn from every day.

Elisha – Becoming a BCBA has been an important milestone in my life. I had dreamed of taking this next step in my ABA journey for many years, but it seemed out of reach and very costly due to the lack of ABA Masters programs and very few BCBA’s in Australia. I am incredibly fortunate that I was accepted into the first cohort of Monash’s Master of Education in Applied Behaviour Analysis, and that I received so much support and encouragement from Pam Roy, Emma Miller, my colleagues, clients and BCBA supervisor Molly Knudsen. We are a growing field in Australia and it is exciting to be a part of that. I am also humbled, that I get to contribute to the future of ABA in Australia, at a time where we are growing, listening to Autistic voices and making positive changes to our practice.