Specialty training for behavior analysts to work in substance abuse treatment

Kimberly C. Kirby, Matthew J. Dwyer, Connor A. Burrows, Caitlyn R. Upton, Sydney A. Dickerson, Bethany R. Raiff

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Employment opportunities for substance abuse counselors are expected to grow by 23% over the next decade, making this an opportune field for Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), particularly those at the master's level. Although certification in behavior analysis is not currently needed for employment in substance abuse treatment, research has shown that interventions based on behavior analysis are among the most effective in changing behaviors of individuals with substance use problems. Despite these findings, credentialing requirements for substance abuse counselors do not follow a behavioral model, and few training opportunities exist to prepare BCBAs to work in specialty substance abuse treatment. This chapter outlines recommended additions to the BACB fifth edition task list that would be required to meet Advanced Substance Abuse Counselor credentialing standards. They are translated to behavioral concepts where possible, and the additional training necessary for a master's level BCBA to provide treatment effectively is identified. These additions include training in the concepts and principles of pharmacology, behavior pharmacology, and behavioral economics. Training is also suggested in methods for measuring substance use and other related behaviors, in the application of individual analysis designs in this area, and in randomized clinical trial designs. Training in methods of functional assessment, in empirically established behavior change procedures (e.g., abstinence-based reinforcement, acceptance and commitment therapy, community reinforcement approaches), and in medication-assisted treatments is also recommended. Finally, ethical issues, regulatory frameworks, and supervision issues are discussed. Hopefully, as behavior analytic treatments become more widely implemented, training programs will consider incorporating these recommendations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationApplications of Behavior Analysis in Healthcare and Beyond
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9783030579692
ISBN (Print)9783030579685
StatePublished - Apr 20 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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