Dear RBT

Hello all of you beautiful people! If you are reading this, you are most likely an RBT, graduate student, someone working tirelessly on student hours, or, maybe someone in between. The point is, we are all on this ride together, and this ride is good, bad, and ugly. We may love or hate where we currently are, but we can all agree that we are the path to something wonderful, and where we are is a very necessary step to where we want to be: a BCBA! I want to dive into some ideas that make both day-to-day and the overall RBT/student experience more useful and less stressful. Here are my thoughts as I ride the ride of RBT and graduate student.

rbt self care

Self Care

To begin, we all know that self care is important. Self care can take many different forms, and each person needs to find what works best for them. It could be a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, a glass of wine, a bottle of wine, a ladies’ night, a date night, a face mask in a bubble bath, the list goes on and on. These are all great and can ease momentary stress, but I challenge you to dig deeper, too. The Behavioral Observations Podcast has a wonderful episode called Work / Life Balance with Kristen Lancaster and Jonathan Tarbox. I suggest listening to the whole podcast, but, in this episode, they discuss considering self care as managing one’s whole person; emotional needs, medical needs, physical needs, etc. Think MOs. Kristen stated that she’s had RBTs leave the field entirely because of burn out #RatioStrain

Speak up for Yourself

Burn out is a real thing when it comes to working and being in school. Make sure that you are saying “no” to things that are not making you a better, happier person. Say no to driving an hour each way to a client, say no to taking on another case, but say YES to help, say yes to more guidance. Request an extension for a fieldwork assignment. Request more feedback on school papers. Ask your supervisor to come out to an extra session when there have been extra challenging behaviors. Also, make sure you are setting boundaries appropriate for you. If you do not want to respond to emails over the weekend, don’t! If you want to put your phone down at night, do it. You should be valued enough to be respected for those boundaries. Being an RBT often feels like the bottom of the totem pole, but we must remember that we are an important (very important!!!) part of the treatment team.

(Dear, BCBA, please #reinforce of your RBTs!)

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Request More Supervision

Student RBTs are often thrown into projects through fieldwork without much direction. Can’t we also get task analyses!? So, when school or student hours throws functional behavioral assessments and VB-MAPP assignments at you, make sure you are getting supervision if you are confused. This may be the only time you get exposure to these assessments before having to do them as a BCBA, so ask your supervisor to assist or look over finished products. This also applies to requesting more offsite meetings, talk with your supervisor if you are having a hard time with a client, or a client’s specific behavior. They are there to help. Behavior Bitches Podcast episode 17 with Sarah Trautman-Eslinger talks about the importance of quality supervision. While they discuss being new BCBAs in the field, we can translate that to being RBTs. From the perspective of an RBT, we are responsible for providing quality services, too #EthicalComplianceCode1.02, which we cannot do if we are confused. No one can blame you for not knowing something that you’ve never done before.

rbt road map

Form Support Group

The work of an RBT can be lonely #af. You rarely see coworkers, especially if you are providing in-home services, and you spend most of your day with your clients or doing independent work. One of the best things I ever did was reach out to RBTs that work for the same company that I do. We went to get dinner and margaritas and talked about ALL of the things. When we left, we all took a breath and agreed that we really needed that bonding. Now, we get together biweekly to grab drinks or dinner, or to do student hours together at a coffee shop. Talking to coworkers who understand your work helps make the day-to-day hustle less isolating, I promise! Think about how regular offices offer the lunch room break talk, or the water cooler chit chat, we don’t have that! So make it happen for yourself.

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Closing Thoughts

As an RBT and graduate student working on student hours, I think a lot about my day-to-day schedule, happiness, stress level, etc. I always strive to be efficient while getting the most done. All of the topics discussed above are pieces to a larger puzzle that I am trying to assemble not only for myself, but for others too. Maybe together we can make it complete.

I use every experience with school work and supervision to formulate who I want to become in the roles of BCBA and supervisor. I challenge you to consider what you find useful and not so useful in your experience as an RBT and graduate student. Journal or make mental notes of the aspects of your experiences that will shape you into the outstanding BCBA that you want to be.

About the Author

Hi all! My name is Alice Okamoto, and I live in Raleigh, NC. I am originally from Philadelphia, PA, but moved to the south for undergrad and stayed! I got my undergraduate degree in Psychology with a minor in Applied Behavior Analysis. I am currently in graduate school for Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis at Arizona State University online. My passions include my dog, working out, spending time with friends and family, trying new restaurants for date night, and learning all things ABA.

I’d love to get to know everyone better. Follow me on Insta @alice.camilla

Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (2014). Professional and ethical compliance code for behavior analysts. Retrieved from

Behavior Bitches Podcast (Producer). (2019, September 30).Sarah Trautman-Eslinger the #HustleQueen.[Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from

The Behavioral Observations Podcast with matt Cicoria. (2019, June 6). Work / Life Balance: Session 86 with Kristen Lancaster and Jonathan Tarbox. [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from

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