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2019 Update: Distance BCBA Supervision (Part 1): What you Need to Know

This guide is for supervisee’s looking for a great distance supervision experience as well as supervisors looking to begin offering or improving their distance supervision. I offer distance supervision for BCBA/BCaBA students, but whether you contact me for supervision or someone else, keep these points in mind.

When I started my BCBA certification program with Florida Institute of Technology, I was working as an SLP-Assistance and not ready to make a career change to an RBT position yet. So I looked to distance supervision to start accumulating my independent hours. I didn’t know what I was looking for, so I just went with the first person I came across that was affordable, experienced, and took the time to answer my zillions of questions. My distance supervisor was nice, informative, and responded to my questions right away, but it was not as personalized as the later supervision I received and the methods of communication were lacking. When you’re paying $300 or more per month, that is definitely not what you want.

What makes an excellent distance supervision experience?

Have a plan

To be a successful BCBA, you need to have a good foundation of the concepts, terminology, and science of our field. This is not just a theoretical knowledge, you need hands on practice of these concepts and procedures. Just like your ABA program has a schedule or class order for you to follow, your distance supervision should too. It doesn’t have to be a ridged plan, but a path that you can follow to build upon previous skills and knowledge while personalizing for each individual’s therapy setting and background.

In my supervision sessions, I start with the basics. I make sure you understand the terminology, history, and basic concepts of ABA before implementing them into applied work. From there we move on to measurement, data collection, reinforcement, and eventually to assessments, challenging behavior, and behavior intervention plans. In addition to obtaining hours by seeing clients or attending school, your supervisor should be assigning relevant articles to read, ABA related tasks to complete, and discussing how the science of our field relates to your caseload or the work you’re doing.


This is easily one of the biggest areas of failure for distance supervision and sometimes even in person supervision. I’ve heard of supervisors just giving students a stack of signed experience forms before hours have been accumulated, doing all of the supervision by email (which is unlikely to equal up to the total amount of hours required and definitely doesn't meet the BACB requirements), and not providing personalized feedback. In addition to supervising 5% of the fieldwork hours, supervisors need to stay on top of changes implemented by the BACB. January 2019 came with some big changes to the Experience Standards and how your hours are tracked and accumulated. It is your responsibility to keep on top of that information, but it’s also helpful to have a supervisor that can pass along that information as well. The lack of communication brings us to the next major point…

Know the Rules

First, read the BACB Experience Standards…then re-read it. It is super important to know the rules and know what does and does not count towards your hours.

The main points to know are:

  • You need to have between 20 and 130 hours per month of independent fieldwork hours, any more or less then that doesn’t count.

  • You need to be supervised for 5% of your fieldwork hours per month.

  • If you get 50 hours between March 1st and March 31st, you should have 2.5hrs of supervision or more.

  • You need two client observations per month, which can be live or pre-recorded.

  • You must document each month on the Experience Supervision Form and it must be signed within 1 month. So the form for May needs to be signed by the last day in June.

  • You must work with at least 2 clients at some point during your experience period. They can be any persons that behavior analytic services are appropriate for and they cannot be related to you.

  • You MUST track your hours and document all of your work using a unique tracking system AND the BACB tracker. An easy to use unique tracking system can be found here.

Supervision can include

  • In person meetings to discuss your caseload or ABA related topics

  • Small group meetings (for no more than half of your supervision hours each period)

  • Telecommunication (phone call, videoconferencing, videotape, or email)

  • Observation of behavior-analytic activities with clients in person, by recording, or live via web-cam

Who is responsible?

Why should you care if your supervisor is not following the guidelines? Because you are both responsible for your supervision. If your supervisor isn’t providing enough or the right kind of supervision and is audited, your supervision hours could come into question. The last thing that anyone wants is to have to redo those 1500 hours, so make sure to:

Read the BACB newsletters to stay informed of any changes

And if you think your supervisor is not acting within the guidelines, ask them, ask the BACB, or find a new supervisor

Your certification could depend on it!

  • Structured supervision curriculum

  • Client assignments for hands on skill practice

  • Access to multiple supervisors

  • Group supervision

  • Online-based learning system


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