5 Applications for Applied Behavior Analysis

Conditions Managed with Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy

  • Autism Spectrum and Developmental Disadvantages
  • Panic and Stress Disorders
  • Age-Related Behavioral Issues
  • Addiction and Substance Abuse
  • Organizational and Workplace Psychology

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a set of practical principles and techniques based on the scientific study of human behavior. As one of the most flexible and effective forms of evidence-based therapy available to clinical psychologists, ABA can offer solutions to both individual and collective behavioral issues. Many of the most prevalent applications for behavior analysis revolve around managing developmental disorders in children, but the therapy has also proven its value for people of all ages and skill levels.

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1. Autism Spectrum and Developmental Disadvantages

Since the field of applied behavior analysis was originally developed and established as a tool for managing autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), it should be no surprise that this is still one of its primary applications. As the rate of autism diagnoses continues to rise across the nation, an increasing number of parents are aware of the signs of autism spectrum conditions and take proactive steps to address them. ABA can be effectively applied to children before they even begin school and some parents actively build these skills themselves so they can use them at home.

2. Panic and Stress Disorders

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a prevalent and debilitating condition often associated with hazardous occupations or extremely traumatic situations. Trauma-related stress disorders can cause severe anxiety, insomnia, and emotional instability for many years after the event. Rather than working with patients to overcome the trauma through conversation and contemplation, ABA practitioners focus on helping patients develop emotional strength and mental defenses to manage the symptoms.

3. Age-Related Behavioral Issues

The application of behavior analysis to problems specific to older adults isn’t a new idea, but it has been gaining popularity in recent years. In fact, the field of behavior gerontology has been developing as a distinct discipline within behavior analysis for several decades, according to the Association for Behavior Analysis International. Since academic learning isn’t typically a concern for older adults, behavior therapies are usually oriented towards instilling and reinforcing essential activities of daily living (ADLs).

4. Addiction and Substance Abuse

Addiction can be an incredibly dangerous and difficult disorder to overcome, especially when hazardous substances are involved. Many of the techniques and principles of ABA have been successfully adapted for use in rehabilitation and therapy centers that serve people suffering from addiction disorders. Focusing on direct antecedents and consequences related to behavior helps patients develop practical defenses and coping mechanisms to redirect destructive impulses.

5. Organizational and Workplace Psychology

Behavior analysis isn’t only useful for managing individual developmental and behavioral issues, it’s also used to improve and reinforce collective attitude and activity. Industrial-organizational (I/O) psychologists often incorporate elements of ABA into workplace and work process design. Potential applications include reducing employee waste, developing internal incentive programs and building a productive social culture in the workplace.

The versatility and wide-ranging utility of ABA has made it a central component in many forms of clinical therapy. All clinical and practical psychologists should at least understand the basics of applied behavior analysis and its potential applications for their patients.