An Interview with Dr. Jillian Wilson, ABA Program Director and Assistant Professor
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I received my PsyD in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University and completed my doctoral training in severe behavior disorders at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD. During my postdoctoral residency, I specialized in the behavior analytic approach to treating pediatric feeding disorders. Currently, I am a board certified behavior analyst- doctoral (BCBA-D®), a licensed behavior analyst, and licensed psychologist in Massachusetts.
Why did you choose to become a behavior analyst and continue further studies in Applied Behavior Analysis?
During my first year in graduate school, we were given a list of practicum sites where we could complete our first rotation of clinical training. When I reviewed the sites, I chose what I thought was a child therapy center. However, I had actually chosen a clinic where behavior analysis was used to treat severe behavior disorders. After a few months of work, I realized how much I enjoyed behavior analysis and the children I was working with! For the remainder of my graduate school training, I chose to focus on ABA. I was able to earn my BCBA-D® and complete my pre- and post-doctoral clinical training in behavior analysis.
Tell us about the background of students you see come through your program. Are you seeing more behavior specialists and or non-traditional career changers coming from other fields?
A majority of our students have experience with ABA through working as a behavior therapist or registered behavior technician (RBT®) in a clinic or school setting. Many have been working for a while and decided to pursue graduate school training to advance their career. We also have students who have decided to change careers after observing behavior analysis in action at their workplace or through personal experience. The common thread among all of our students is their drive and passion to learn the principles of behavior to help others.
What would you say is the most rewarding aspects of being a certified behavior analyst?
Through ABA, we aim to help our clients live a better life. When we can achieve this, it is incredibly fulfilling. In my experience with severe behavior and feeding treatment, caregivers are eager to help their child be successful. Encouraging the family to participate, supporting children in meeting their goals, and ultimately being a part of that success is reinforcing. Each child, family, and day on the job is different, which keeps the work fun, engaging, and exciting!
What is one piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring behavior analyst?
Keep your mind open to the different ways you can use your skills. Behavior analysis can be used for so much more than skill acquisition or problem behavior reduction in individuals with autism spectrum disorder.
“Behavior analysts can work with individuals of all ages and within a broad spectrum of settings.”
The principles of behavior have been applied to the treatment of sleep disorders, gambling addiction, traumatic brain injury, organizational behavior management, and sports performance to name a few. Behavior analysts can work with individuals of all ages and within a broad spectrum of settings. Make sure to explore your options, ask questions, and get as much experience as you can!
What do you feel are the most pressing issues in ABA today, and how does the Regis program prepare graduates to address these issues?
I think two of the most pressing issues are developing and maintaining cultural competence and the ability to work within a multidisciplinary team. As behavior analytic practitioners, you should place a high value on understanding how one’s culture may impact interactions. Cultural competence plays a role in all aspects of assessment, treatment, and rapport building with clients and their family.
“Behavior analysts also benefit from understanding how to work within multidisciplinary teams. When working with clients with delays or disabilities, you will rarely be the only member of their therapeutic team.”
Behavior analysts also benefit from understanding how to work within multidisciplinary teams. When working with clients with delays or disabilities, you will rarely be the only member of their therapeutic team. Children often see multiple providers, like pediatricians, speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, social workers, neurologists, and many other specialists. Collaborating with these varied care providers and knowing how to work effectively within a multidisciplinary team allows you to provide high quality, comprehensive care to clients.
Regis ABA programs not only prepare graduates to be highly knowledgeable and skilled behavior analysts, but to also remain aware of opportunities to collaborate with other care providers and integrate cultural competence into their therapeutic services. We have incorporated these important skills into our coursework and encourage our students to utilize their knowledge in clinical settings.