Thinking of opening your own ABA clinic as an RBT? Here’s what you need to know 

Beyond their traditional roles, many Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) are interested in stepping into business ownership and carving out pioneering paths in the field of ABA therapy.  One common driving force behind RBTs as company owners is a desire to profoundly impact the lives of their clients and contribute towards the betterment of the industry. 

Anna Turi, who is herself an RBT in Florida and founder of ABA Source– a business helping RBTs get trained and certified, says in a video: “I saw some things in the field that were very upsetting, and this ignited something in me to create and train RBTs the right way.” 

“Keep hearing that we can run a licensed facility as an RBT if we have a BCBA willing to oversee the paperwork. How is this possible, and where do I begin? I feel bad for some of these clinics doing horrible ABA practices and some of these RBTs not knowing anything. Like I would love to train other RBTs,” another RBT asks in an online forum, expressing his (her/their) concerns about current ABA practices.

Anay Quintero used to work as an RBT in Florida and now owns Blue Care Behavior Therapy. The clinic’s mission is “to develop meaningful relationships, build trust in the process, and ultimately transition our clients from intensive support to greater independence.” 

“As an RBT, you can definitely make it, but you need other people’s support,” says Quintero in a conversation with ABA Matrix

What does it take for RBTs to transition to the entrepreneurial path? It is important to be aware that conflicts may arise when opening a business in ABA, so it is crucial to understand how to navigate them. Let’s delve into the journey, challenges, and strategies involved. 

Understanding Ethics and Multiple Relationships

The Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB) periodically receives inquiries about whether it is appropriate for RBTs to own a company where they provide services to clients. According to the BACB, while there’s no outright prohibition, ethical considerations come into play, particularly regarding multiple relationships. 

The BACB’s ethics codes prohibit certain multiple relationships that are likely to arise in these situations. For instance, the BACB’s Code 1.11 on Multiple Relationships highlights the potential conflict of interest that might harm the parties involved. This includes professional relationships with clients and colleagues.

As an illustration, the BACB creates a scenario where an RBT or BCaBA owner is ultimately responsible for all service delivery at their company. This entails decision-making on hiring staff, accepting clients, and overseeing supervision by BCBAs and BCaBAs. Such dynamics could inhibit clients from directly providing feedback about their services to the owner or supervisor.

Challenges Faced by RBT Clinic/Company Owners

Transitioning from ABA professional to owner presents its own set of challenges. As RBT owners navigate their dual roles, role conflicts and supervisory challenges may arise. 

Brandon Herscovitch, Ph.D., LABA, BCBA-D, who wrote about his own interpretation of the code, explains that “the conflicts of concern in the matter of RBTs and BCaBAs as company owners become relevant when the RBTs and BCaBAs who are company owners also hold certain clinical positions within their own company, such as client specific clinical work, and specifically any role that requires they are supervised by a BCBA or BCBA-D who also works at their company.”

This suggests that while RBTs can hold other roles, such as owner or operator within their company, without violating ethical standards, they must ensure that these roles do not involve behavior-analytic activities that require oversight by a BCBA or BCBA-D. 

“To open your own company as an RBT, you need to hire a behavior analyst who will be the main provider,” Quintero confirms. 

The Role of Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)

In the pursuit of clinic ownership, some RBTs may opt to operate as members of limited liability companies (LLCs). While LLCs provide a degree of protection for personal assets, they do not exempt practitioners from ethical responsibility. As the BACB emphasizes, all professional service delivery involves ethical responsibility, regardless of the legal structure.

Strategies for Success

Despite the challenges, there are strategies for success that RBT business owners can employ. Collaboration with BCBAs and other professionals is key. 

Quintero explains: “I gathered people I knew could help me. I was fortunate enough to have made working friendships when I had the idea and the opportunity to open this company. I turned to those people, mainly the analyst and another person who was in charge of billing and dealing with private insurance.” 

“That helped me a lot because I already had people on my team who had the experience I needed to start,” she adds. 

Quintero notes that after opening the company, enrolling in health insurance, and becoming a provider, the next step is to look for clients.  

“We have been lucky that since we are in a city where we have worked with many parents who already know us, they wanted to come with us. We have also done some marketing, reaching out to different pediatricians with flyers and business cards to know that they are the ones who send referrals to the clients,” she relates. 

Implementing clear policies and procedures, prioritizing client welfare, and upholding ethical integrity are essential aspects of building a sustainable business model. 

“I would always recommend doing things yourself to learn everything. It doesn’t matter if you make a mistake, but it’s important to learn how and why each step is done,” Quintero advises.  

The journey of RBTs as company owners is one of innovation and dedication. As the field continues to evolve, opportunities for growth and innovation abound. By fostering a culture of ethical excellence, entrepreneurial RBTs can navigate the complexities of clinic ownership while delivering high-quality services.