ABA Work Environments: What Is an Outpatient Care Center?

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An ABA therapist works with a patient.

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is an evidence-based practice that is used to enhance motor, speech, and communication skills. Since the 1960s, ABA has been a common therapy for treating children with developmental disorders, such as autism. It can be applied in many settings, including hospitals, schools, homes, and outpatient care centers.

What is an outpatient care center? It is part of a medical facility, such as a hospital, and provides care for patients who have not been admitted for overnight stays. Patients may visit these centers for testing, therapy, and treatment.

Future applied behavior analysts should have the skills needed to effectively utilize ABA therapy in outpatient care settings. They can acquire these skills through an advanced degree, such as an online Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis.

What Is an Outpatient Care Center?

At outpatient care centers, patients undergo treatments and procedures that can be conducted without an overnight stay. Possible medical procedures include blood tests, X-rays, and radiation treatment.

Outpatient care is growing in popularity as new technologies, procedures, and financial incentives make it a more feasible treatment option for patients and caregivers. According to Deloitte, outpatient services increased from 30% of hospital revenue in 1995 to 47% in 2016.

Outpatient care centers can be optimal settings for administering ABA therapy, which does not require 24-hour monitoring or overnight procedures in a hospital. Rather, ABA therapy is applied through frequent, repeated, and intensive sessions, which can then carry over into the school or home.

ABA Therapy and Outpatient Care

Outpatient care centers are appropriate settings for delivering ABA therapy, especially for individuals diagnosed with autism. They can be less overwhelming and restrictive than hospital settings, allowing greater comfort for patients with emotional or behavioral challenges. They also provide flexible venues for one-on-one and group sessions.

ABA’s goal is to pinpoint behavioral challenges, correct them through alternative skill development , and empower individuals to use appropriate behavior on their own. Assessment of behavior challenges can be  done through the “A-B-C” method, which involves pinpointing the antecedent to a behavior, the resulting behavior, and understanding the consequence of that behavior. For example, an individual may engage in tantrums when their parent or caregiver is not attending to them. The ABA therapist can assess this contingency where a lack of attention from a parent (A), leads to a tantrum (B), which results in attention from the parent (C). Behavior analysts use this information to develop interventions that help the client communicate their needs in a more appropriate fashion.

Individuals with speech, language, or motor difficulties may already be visiting outpatient care centers for other treatments such as psychiatric care, speech language therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy. ABA therapists can further work with these patients to develop behavioral treatment techniques through intensive therapy sessions on an ongoing basis.

Common ABA therapy techniques include the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), which uses pictures to enhance vocabulary and communication skills; differential reinforcement therapy, which focuses on the consequences of positive and negative behaviors; modeling, which exposes patients to positive behaviors through video or audio examples; and discrete trial training, which focuses on teaching small, distinct behaviors in order to later teach larger, more complex behaviors.

These techniques do not require complex medical equipment, and can easily be carried out in an outpatient care center with simple materials. With the help of family members and other caregivers, these techniques can then be applied outside of the clinical setting, such as at home or in school, for continued treatment and behavioral improvement.

Essential Skills for Applied Behavior Analysts

Certain skills are fundamental for utilizing effective ABA therapy in outpatient settings. ABA therapists should have strong observational and interpersonal competencies for connecting with patients and their families. They should also be able to make patients feel comfortable and free to learn in clinical environments. ABA therapists should possess key personality traits, such as compassion, empathy, and patience, for lengthy and challenging therapeutic sessions.

Regis College’s online Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis program can help students develop the knowledge and skills needed to build effective therapeutic strategies for a range of patients. Combining coursework with hands-on experience, the program covers key ABA topics, such as ethical practice, behavior intervention, and treatment. Students can then use these skills in various settings, such as an outpatient care center.

Prepare for a Career in Behavior Analysis

Regis College’s online Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis program can help prospective ABA therapists prepare for satisfying careers. Designed for students with a range of health science experience, this program can help people from different backgrounds advance their skills and expand their health care capabilities. Once they have completed the coursework, students will be eligible to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst Examination.

Take the next step in building your career and start pursuing your master’s degree with Regis College today.


Recommended Readings

5 Popular Applied Behavior Analysis Careers

Exploring ABA Techniques and Their Role in Treatment

Where Do Behavior Therapists Work? Providing Support Services in Many Settings


Association for Science in Autism Treatment, ABA Techniques

Autism Speaks, What Is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Cigna, Outpatient Services

Deloitte, “Outpatient Services Growth: Ambulatory Physicians Should Be Given Greater Independence”

Hospital for Special Care, Autism Inpatient Care

Hospital for Special Care, Autism Outpatient Program

Mass Partnership, Outpatient Services

Medicare, What Does Inpatient Versus Outpatient Mean for Medicare?

Regis College, Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis

Synapse, “Introduction to Applied Behavior Analysis”

Take Charge of Autism, Autism Treatment Service Options

WebMD, Ambulatory Patient Services, Also Called Outpatient Care