ABA supervision is a critical part of the credentialing process for new clinicians. Supervision is a time during an individual’s education where they get to apply their skills while working with a seasoned ABA therapist. Supervisors get to mentor, model, and teach new clinicians how to become experts in their field. It is an exciting opportunity! So how can you be the best supervisor for your trainee in order to help them reach their potential?

Recommended Practice Guidelines for ABA Supervisors

Establish an Effective Relationship

Before trainees can reap the benefits of their supervision, their supervisor needs to establish an effective working relationship between the two. This relationship is integral to the success of the trainee and acts as the foundation for the rest of the ABA supervision. Supervisors need to spend time nurturing each individual relationship they have with a trainee, ensuring they are able to dedicate the time that is necessary to make sure the trainee gains from it what they need to be a great therapist. For this reason, supervisors should not take on too many trainees at one time if they do not have the bandwidth in their schedule to truly make an effort. They need to be a leader and a role model for all things ABA as well teach them how to be the same.

The core components  of establishing a good relationship include: 

  1. A Supervision Contract: 
  2. Set Clear Expectations: 
  3. Describe the Process and Motivation for Receiving and Accepting Feedback
  4. Create a Committed and Positive Relationship


Supervision is an ongoing experience where each party works together to strengthen the trainee’s career. It is not anyone meeting, but a series of meetings that act as building blocks in their professionalism and education, helping them to build upon what they know and how to apply it.

Establish Structured Approach with Specific Content and Competencies

The next component of providing exceptional ABA supervision is to create a structured approach, or a plan, for the entirety of the time you two have together. A supervisory relationship can last anywhere from 1-5 years depending on the individual. The plan should be based on the goals and scope of ABA supervision listed above in a way that applies to the supervisee.  A formulated plan with specific content and competencies will make it easier for the supervisor and supervisee to track what goals have been accomplished, but skills have been mastered, and more. 

An ABA supervisor should ensure that their plan is: 

  1. Competency-Based: the plan to ensure that a trainee is competent at a certain level and at a certain skill. 
  2. Knowledge-Based: Demonstrate an understanding of the concept, principle, or technology. 
  3. Performance-Based: Correct performance of skill at some indicated mastery criterion. 


At the end of the plan, a trainee should be competent in an area like positive reinforcement, be able to effectively explain positive reinforcement to a parent or give examples, and be able to apply positive reinforcement in a clinical setting. 

The core components of a competency-based system:

  1. Checklists: a list of all competencies for the supervisee to demonstrate
  2. Manual: Includes all competencies with exercises, answers, teaching strategies, and references. 
  3. Timeline Graphic: Suggested progression and time for each step across the necessary hours.  

Evaluate Effects of Supervision

Regularly evaluating the effects of supervision is how ABA supervisors are able to track whether or not their current processes are working in the relationship. If they are not, then the processes need to change. The goal is to help a trainee develop into the best professional they can be. 

ABA supervisors can evaluate their supervision by: 

  1. Tracking Completed Competencies: Is the trainee mastering the competencies within the set timeline? Are they understanding technical language and processes? What kinds of errors are being made in the process?
  2. Monitor Improvements In Client Outcomes: Is the client showing progress during their time with the supervisee/is the supervisee applying competencies in the client-based setting. 
  3. Solicit Feedback From Supervisee: Is the supervisee expressing concerns, challenges, or frustrations. Are they happy with their progress? 
  4. Structured Survey for Supervisee: This should include specific areas and open-ended questions that the ABA supervisor can track and see if the trainee is gaining confidence and competence in their skill development.

Incorporate Ethics & Professional Development

Ethics need to be included in each step of ABA supervision. Each ethical and professional situation a trainee encounters will be their very first. This can make them frustrating and difficult for new clinicians. For this reason, ABA supervisors need to incorporate ethical lessons at every opportunity. The more prepared a supervisee is to handle these situations before they come, the less likely they are to tumble when they encounter them. 

ABA supervision that prepares trainees for these situations should: 

  1. Expose supervisees to a wide variety of ethical dilemmas
  2. Actively analyze the situations for the core ethical issues that should control responding
  3. Evaluate the benefits and concerns of multiple potential responses together
  4. Engage in ongoing discussions about actual ethical dilemmas as they occur


Continue Professional Relationship Post-Certification 

The relationship that a trainee has with their supervisor is usually one that follows them the rest of their careers. The lessons learned, the experiences modeled for them, and the challenges conquered during the time that a supervisor and supervisee spend together (which is sometimes years) make it an integral part of their education and a foundational experience for their clinical career. 

So what happens when supervision is over? 

Supervisors should take the following steps at the end of supervision: 

  1. Overall Analysis of Experience: the supervisor and supervisee should take time to reflect on their time together. Talk about what worked, what didn’t, what they appreciated, what they wish had gone differently. Supervisors can use this as an opportunity to learn for their relationships with future trainees. 
  2. Provide Feedback to One Another: What does the trainee think you could improve? What do they think you did a great job at? What do you think of the supervisee’s accomplishments and challenges during their time working with you?
  3. Transition the Relationship: While supervision is ending, the professional relationship should not. You can still function as their mentor as they start their early career. Education never ends and an old supervisor can be a great resource to a new clinician. 
  4. Plan for Ongoing Mentorship and Collaboration: make an intentional effort to stay connected post-certification so that the professional relationship still acts as a resource and support structure for them moving forward. 

Overall, an ongoing mentorship does not have to be as structured as the supervision relationship did. It could be as simple as meeting for coffee every now and then, sharing articles you find in the news, or just touching base over email every now and then. The important thing is that an ABA supervisor transitions into a mentorship role.

The Importance of Record Keeping


The entirety of an ABA supervision relationship hinges on record keeping. Trainees and their supervisors must meticulously track hours, competencies, completion of goals, and more in order for the trainee to qualify for certification. The BACB has unique recordkeeping requirements that must be followed diligently in order for the supervisee to progress their clinical career. 


At any point during supervision, the BACB is allowed to conduct a fieldwork audit. Any fieldwork that is not compliant with the requirements of the BACB will be disqualified. 


If an audit were to take place, the trainee would need to be able to provide their supervision contract, their unique records for documenting fieldwork with their supervisor, monthly fieldwork verification forms, and the fieldwork tracker. 


Should a trainee now be able to provide these things, their supervision and professional development would be at risk, forcing them to move backward. 


To avoid this, all ABA supervision must be meticulously documented in an organized way. While there is no specific way that a supervisor needs to do this, they need to make sure their records reflect all the requirements of the BACB. 


The best and most efficient way to make sure a trainee has detailed records of their supervision is to utilize supervision software. The right software comes equipped with the tools and functions necessary to keep a comprehensive record of supervision while remaining easily accessible and understandable.

Benefits and Features of Supervision Software

Utilizing a top-of-the-line supervision software offers the potential to avoid the headaches associated with record-keeping while keeping the supervisory relationship and progress compliant with the BACB. Having a resource like this ensures that any trainee coming through your organization can effectively report every inch of their progress. This is especially useful for organizations that host multiple ABA supervision relationships. 

Any supervisor and supervisee in the organization can easily form supervisory contracts, track outs, create structured plans, track competency, analyze progress, and so much more. A handful of the benefits associated with a quality ABA supervision software include: 


  1. Score Performance Measures
  2. Individual and Group Sessions
  3. Progress Checklist 
  4. Organization 
  5. Flexibility
  6. Feedback Features
  7. Hours Tracking
  8. Collaborative Functions


Having a great supervisor makes all the difference in one’s career. Getting that type of hands-on experience while working with someone who knows what they’re doing helps build strong and confident ABA clinicians. Supervisors and trainees must never forget the value of record-keeping and data to the credentialing process.

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BCBA 2022 Eligibility Requirements (2021, May 1). Retrieved June 23, 2021, https://www.bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/BCBA-2022EligibilityRequirements_210513.pdf

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This post is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be used in lieu of practitioners’ own due diligence, state and federal regulations, and funders’ policies. 

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