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  • Writer's pictureAlley Dezenhouse Kelner

3 Essential Components of a Therapeutic Program

You know what I love about ABA? It’s unregulated.

I can be as innovative and outside the box as I want, and no one will ever regulate me otherwise. For a good, well versed, provider the ABA world is my oyster of learning opportunities. WOO HOO!

You know what I hate about ABA? It’s unregulated.

You can, technically, opt out of any aspect of the clinical process and no one will ever regulate you otherwise. For a lazy provider, the ABA world is a series of optional tasks. BOO HOO!

It’s a catch 22, isn’t it?

On one hand, an excellent provider, can work tirelessly to reinvent the wheel; to modify old ideals while still holding on to fundamentals principles. We can personalize the ABA experience, while still making it fresh, modern and relevant.

On the other hand, there is no one setting ‘must do’ rules, which leaves—as far as I am concerned, too much room for interpretation (or avoidance behaviour).

So here are 3 words of wisdom for parents entering the waters of ABA (or really any treatment model), venturing into unknown territories like assessments, therapeutic goals, treatment progress reporting, and otherwise.

FYI- I am well versed in ABA because it is what I do, but my professional training extends to other mental health areas like counselling, psychotherapy, guidance counselling within schools, group therapy workshops and other mediums, that said--this advice is not specific to just ABA.

1. Any therapeutic program you enter should have an initial assessment period. This can be direct assessments (ABLLS-R, VBMAPP, or otherwise) or can be indirect (interview with parents, observational reporting, surveys, etc.); there is no wrong way to assess, as long as the assessment yields results. Results can be in the form of charts, numbers/graphs, anecdotal summaries, and so on. An assessment doesn’t have to be strenuous on the child, and it can take as little as 30 minutes and as long as it needs to (6 hours, 8 hours, 10 hours, you get the idea). The more skills that exist, the longer an assessment should take. Repeat after me....any therapeutic program offering goal oriented results must have some means of developing goals that is rooted in assessment. Are we clear on that? I really can’t stress it enough!

2. From any assessment procedure which occurs, which again can be direct or indirect, a treatment plan, individual support plan or otherwise should follow. The treatment plan outlines initial goals; it’s not a document that can’t be changed, in fact, it should be reviewed on a consistent basis to see if goals need reworking. Think about it this way, if there is no treatment plan (in a paper document that you, as the parent/caregiver, have read) how can you possibly consent to treatment? If you haven’t gotten such a document, and accordingly haven’t consented to treatment—this is a problem. Take away message...if you don’t have a big picture idea of the plan for treatment, you haven’t given true and informed consent for treatment to occur! 3. Every therapeutic program which outlines goals, which they all should, ought to have a way of measuring progress towards goals (in a way that is qualified and systematic--not haphazard). There are simple and sophisticated ways of tracking progress; there are no better or worse ways of tracking growth, as long as the method is chosen in a way that is thought out. Good therapeutic goals should be...SMART (I didn't make this up!). Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-based, Time-bound. For more information see:

If you follow these basic guidelines, you are definitly on the road to getting a quality service. I will be the first to admit that professional styles may vary (and there is nothing wrong with that) but no matter your approach or perspective (or school of thought) these 3 guiding ideals will take you a long way.

Does something seem wierd, not what you've read before, or generally confusing? Just ask me!

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