What is a Registered Behavioral Technician (RBT)?

Registered Behavioral Technician

Registered Behavioral Technician

What is a behavior technician, and what is an RBT? Individuals who are interested in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) often become RBTs. (RBT is short for registered behavior technician.) Registered behavior technicians work with clients in need of developmental behavior therapy. Working as a registered behavioral therapist can help an individual get experience. Behavioral health technicians work with clients suffering from a variety of behavioral issues. However, they do not have to spend years in college to earn high-level degrees. A registered ABA behavior technician works under the guidance of a board certified behavior analyst with a more advanced level of education. They also work closely with patients. Learn more about what is a behavior technician, how to become one, and what the career entails.

See Also: 20 Most Affordable Online ABA Graduate Certificate Programs

What is a Registered Behavioral Technician?

What is a behavior technician? What is an RBT? These are different names for the same thing: registered behavior technician. A Registered Behavior Technician™ (RBT) is an individual who implements behavior-analytic services. They do so under the close supervision of a BCBA, BCaBA or FL-CBA. 

  • BCBA: BCBA stands for board certified behavior analyst. Board certified behavior analysts have earned a master’s-level certification. This certification is in the area of behavior analysis. 
  • BCaBA: BCaBA stands for board-certified assistant behavior analyst. This is a bachelor’s-level certification. 
  • FL-CBA: FL-CBA is a bit more complicated. It stands for Florida certified behavior analyst, and is valid only in the state of Florida. However, this certification is no longer offered. Those who have the FL-CBA certification are allowed to keep it until it expires. When it expires they must become BCBAs. Essentially, FL-CBA equates to board certified behavior analyst.

A registered ABA behavior technician may work under the supervision of any of these individuals. They help them keep records of their plans and how the plans played out with patients. They also help them in their everyday work with patients. 

See Also: 10 Best Registered Behavior Technician Online Training Programs

What Does a Registered Behavior Technician Do?

Registered behavior technicians provide mental health services. They provide these services to patients struggling with various behavioral problems, including:

  • post-traumatic stress disorder

  • physical and emotional abuse

  • psychiatric disorders

  • substance abuse

The RBT might not make the plans, but he or she has a large role in implementing them. Making a plan involves observing the patient and coming to an understanding of what is causing their behavioral problems. Then the BCBA or BCaBA will plan how to address these problems. The registered behavioral technician may help their supervisor in this process, or they may simply be told what the plan is once it has been made. This may depend on the personality or leadership style of the BCBA or BCaBA. However, once the plan is made, the RBT helps put it into practice with the patient. Their job duties are determined by their supervisor, but they will usually include the following:

What does a registered behavior technician do? – Helping patients with social skillsImage of child playing for our FAQ Do I Have to Take an Exam to Become an ABA?

Those who come to a registered ABA behavior technician for help are often struggling with social skills. They may be on the autism spectrum, as this is a group of people that often seeks the assistance of an RBT or BCBA. For those who have issues with social skills, a social interaction that is very simple for others may seem complicated and very difficult. Something as simple as ordering a meal at a restaurant may become a difficult ordeal. It is the RBT’s job to help the patient learn social skills. This may be in group settings or in a one-on-one environment. It may involve a combination of both. The patient might practice the skills with the RBT. Then they might use the skills in a group setting.

What does a registered behavior technician do? – Helping families cope with a diagnosisDo I Have to Take an Exam to Become an ABA?

The diagnosis of autism, or other disorders, is difficult for the individual diagnosed. It can be even more difficult for the family. The parents may be worried about their child. They also have to adjust their plans for the child. They may feel sad or angry, as well. Siblings may feel concerned or confused. They may also be jealous of all of the extra attention the affected child is getting. It is the registered behavioral therapist’s job to help a family navigate these issues. The applied behavior analysis technician also communicates with the family about what needs to be changed at home to help the patient. This might include schedules or the responses to certain behaviors. The family can be a key part of helping to reinforce positive behaviors.

What does a registered behavior technician do? – Reduction of negative behaviors What Kind of Job Can I Get With a Bachelor's in Applied Behavior Analysis?

One of the main roles of behavior analysts is to reduce negative behaviors. To do so, they must first observe the patient, either in a classroom or a fairly ordinary setting. They need to find out what happens immediately following the negative behavior. This is what determines whether the behavior is repeated. For example, if the patient shouts at people to get what he wants, and everyone immediately gives in, the patient is more likely to repeat the behavior. However, if the RBT does not give the patient what he wants when he shouts, he is more likely to find another way to get what he wants. 

What does a registered behavior technician do? –  Keeping records

One major job for RBTs is keeping records. The BCBA or BCaBA is responsible for observing the patient’s behavior before treatment. Then they must make a treatment plan. With the assistance of the RBT, they must carry out the plan. These plans must be recorded so that the BCBA can see what has worked and what has not. That way they can change future plans to reflect these observations. 

What is ABA?An image of a therapist working with a little boy for our article on whether insurance covers ABA therapy

ABA is applied behavior analysis. It is using the observation of behavior to change people’s behavior for the better. This may be adding positive behaviors or reducing negative ones. As described above, these goals are achieved by changing the result of a behavior. For example, a child may be in the habit of crying whenever she wants a certain toy, instead of asking for it. If the child’s parents or teachers immediately give her the toy, the child will remember the behavior as successful. She will do it the next time she wants the toy. On the other hand, the RBT does not give the child the toy when she cries. Over time she will register the behavior as unsuccessful in producing the results she wants. Then, she may begin to ask for the toy in a more acceptable manner. 

What is an RBT Trained to Help People With? 

According to leafwingcenter.org, it is commonly believed that applied behavior analysis is only used for those with autism spectrum disorder. It has indeed proven to be helpful for many individuals with autism spectrum disorder. However, it can also be a help to those with other problems. These include people with:

  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • obsessive compulsive disorder
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • panic disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

According to cdc.gov, autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability. It causes trouble with behavior, communication, and social interaction. Those with autism often have a different way of seeing the world, or a different way of thinking about what they see. They often have trouble learning basic social skills that seem intuitive to many others. They may also have delayed communication – about 40% of those with autism are nonverbal. Children with autism often have self-harmful behaviors, such as biting or scratching. There are different levels of intellectual disability or ability among those with ASD. Some autistic individuals need more help with their daily lives than others.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Psychiatry.org describes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as one of the most common mental disorders that children suffer from, although it is not limited to children. There are three types of ADHD: the inattentive type, the hyperactive/impulsive type, and the combined type. The inattentive type has trouble staying focused on what is going on and may also have trouble staying organized. There are other symptoms as well. The hyperactive type seems to be always doing something. This might be moving their hands, talking even when someone else is already talking, or running or climbing where they should not be doing so. The third type is a combination of the two. 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

According to iocdf.org, obsessive compulsive disorder involves a repeating cycle of obsessions and compulsions. “Obsessions” refers to unwanted, intrusive thoughts that the individual cannot control. “Compulsions” describes the repetitive behaviors that the individual performs to try to get rid of the obsessive thoughts. To an extent, many people have obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors. This disorder refers to individuals who have these symptoms to an extreme degree. It gets in the way of their everyday life. They have trouble continuing their normal activities. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder is described on psychiatry.org as “a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.” The individual may experience nightmares or flashbacks about the event. They may also feel very sad or angry, or feel like they are at a distance from others. They often try to stay away from any situation that reminds them of what happened. They might have extremely strong reactions to normal things like loud noises. 

Panic Disorder

Medlineplus.gov says that panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that causes panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden feeling of extreme fear when nothing dangerous is happening. The individual might feel as if they are losing control. They might also have symptoms such as a fast heartbeat, sweating, breathing difficulty, weakness, or dizziness. Sometimes the individual becomes so frightened of having another panic attack that it becomes difficult for them to leave their homes. 

All of these disorders can be improved upon through the use of applied behavior analysis. 

How to Become a Registered Behavioral Technician

To become an ABA technician requires completing training and obtaining certification from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. The path towards this career is typically the same for all candidates. There are specific eligibility requirements that must be met before the candidate can have the credential of Registered Behavior Technician™ (RBT). These are age and education, background check, training, competency assessment, examination, and ethics. 

  • Age and Education – The applicant must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or have earned their GED, which is considered the equivalent of a high school diploma. 
  • Background Check – The applicant must have passed a criminal background check within the past six months. If there is any criminal history, the background check is considered failed. 
  • Training – The applicant must complete a 40-hour training program specific to RBT tasks. This may be either online or in person. 
  • Competency Assessment – The applicant must successfully pass the competency assessment, which is administered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. To successfully pass the comptency assessment, the candidate must prove competency in all required tasks.
  • Examination – The applicant must pass the RBT exam. Before being eligible to take the exam, the candidate must show proof that all previous requirements have been met.
  • Ethics – Applicants must satisfy the RBT Ethics Code, which includes three areas: responsible conduct, responsibility to clients, and competence and service delivery.

RBT Certification

The final step towards becoming an RBT is obtaining RBT certification. RBT certification requires passing the competency assessment, according to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. It can be completed in person, through recorded videos or live on the internet and can be completed in more than one session. There are several different categories or “tasks” that must be satisfactorily completed and verified by an assessor. These tasks are grouped into:

  • measurement

  • assessment

  • skill acquisition

  • behavior reduction

  • documentation and reporting

  • professional conduct and scope of practice

Because RBTs are not required to spend several years in college, this is a job for a person who feels they have what it takes to work with developmentally and behaviorally challenged individuals but isn’t sure if they want to make a career out of it. After completing the RBT training program, individuals are eligible to take the RBT certification exam. Once they pass the exam and meet other requirements, they become Registered Behavior Technicians, recognized by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).

The upside of this job choice is that the RBT can use the training and experience towards a degree in this field if he or she finds the job rewarding and wants to advance to a higher position.


July 2023

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This concludes our article answering the question “What is a Registered Behavioral Technician?”