Jessica Gamba

My name is David Bergmark, and I am the founder and CEO of Waypoints. I have a PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and have been a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) since 2014.

I love the science of behavior analysis, upon which the practice of ABA is based. In high school and college, I studied psychology to learn about people and their behavior. However, I was never satisfied because there wasn’t hard data; you can’t point to parts of the brain and say, “here are the id, ego, and superego.” When I learned about ABA and saw it in action at the preschool I worked at on campus, suddenly the world made sense. The effects of behavior-analytic procedures can be observed and measured, and in combination with the profound benefit that changing the environment can produce in people’s lives, I was hooked.

I knew I wanted a career in ABA, but I didn’t see myself doing clinical work long-term. Despite that, after earning my PhD in Chicago, I moved to Michigan to work as a clinician for a large company. While there was a lot about the company I liked, I saw room for improvement. Unfortunately, I wasn’t given the opportunity to implement the changes needed to address the issues I identified.

Then, I was laid off at the end of 2020. In retrospect, I’m glad it happened. I started Waypoints because, while I didn’t personally want to be a clinician, I wanted to create an environment where good clinical work is prioritized and celebrated through compassionate and efficient systems and supports.

A close-up of a child's hands in a sensory play activity

Our Initial Vision

Prior to 2020, I had observed many areas in which our industry needed to improve, and I wanted to have the power to make the necessary changes. I wanted to make sure I worked for a company that prioritized the wellbeing of the staff, especially the behavior technicians.

Toward that end, we needed solid infrastructure to make sure that as we grew, we didn’t “outkick” our coverage and take on more clients than we would be able to provide quality services to. It was crucial to have a team to establish the policies, procedures, and trainings necessary to build the foundation on which we could build everything else.

When I shared my ideas with Rachal Greenman, now our Chief Clinical Director, and Dr. Jessica Gamba, now our Director of Training and Research, they both expressed excitement and interest in joining Waypoints. As we started services, we realized that we were going to need to bring on someone to assist with our administrative tasks sooner rather than later. Fortunately, that is when our Administration Manager, Taylor Jasgur, reached out looking for a new opportunity. This core team shared my values and vision for what Waypoints, and ABA in general, could be.

Behavior Technicians – The Backbone of ABA

What I recognized in our field is that because the behavior technician role requires only a high school diploma, most companies treat the role as entry level. However, the behavior technician role is not entry level. It is a challenging position. When people without a background in ABA succeed as behavior technicians, it’s because of high-quality training.

In Michigan, a 40-hour training is required (in addition to a high school diploma). Many companies will place new behavior technicians with clients immediately after they complete the training, without any additional support. This is a recipe for high turnover of both staff and clients.

At Waypoints, all our technicians receive two weeks of onboarding, including opportunities to observe and work with experienced behavior technicians during client sessions. We are proud to brag about our behavior technician retention for the year: 91%. According to a 2021 report by the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE), monthly turnover for the behavior technician role nationwide is 59%. Our high retention rates result in consistency and improved client outcomes, as well as improved staff and client satisfaction.

What’s Next for Waypoints?

Waypoints has had an amazing first two years, and we’re excited for the future. We plan to keep growing responsibly. We don’t want long waiting lists for clients and we don’t want to hire faster than we can train our team. An expansion of areas of service is also something we often discuss.

We provide ABA services because we know ABA. As we grow, if we find the right people, we might expand the services we offer in order to better help our clients. Our goal is to support our clients to the best of our ability while ensuring our staff are well paid, well trained, well respected, and appreciated.

Currently, we are in the process of moving from preliminary BHCOE accreditation to full accreditation. It is a thorough process, and we are excited to show off our hard work. You can learn about our progress so far in this previous blog post. Another step will be to earn the practica accreditation from the BHCOE. This will allow us to ensure the highest quality of training for behavior technicians who are working towards becoming BCBAs and will also facilitate coordination with their universities to ensure they receive the most comprehensive and well-rounded education and fieldwork possible.

Thanks for Getting to Know Us!

Thank you for taking the time to learn a little more about us!  We currently serve about 25 active clients with 35 employees and offer services primarily in Kent and Ottawa Counties. If you’d like to learn more, please see our About Us page!

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Get in Touch With Waypoints

Whether you’re looking for diagnostic testing, one-on-one in-home ABA therapy and skill-building resources, or simply want to learn more about our unique approach, please don’t hesitate to reach out! (We love getting mail.)

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Jessica Gamba

There are so many ways to be involved in the field of behavior analysis! In a previous post (What Do ABA Therapists Do?), I covered some of the general day-to-day activities of technicians and clinicians providing applied behavior analysis (ABA) services with autistic clients in clinical settings, along with a very brief overview of the requirements for becoming certified in those roles.

That information truly only scratched the surface, though. I hope that this post will help you consider whether ABA might be the right career path for you, and if so, help you to get started on that journey.

how to become an aba therapist

My Path to ABA

Personally, I stumbled into the science and practice of behavior analysis entirely by accident, and I feel so lucky to have done so. I knew that I wanted to be a professor and researcher one day, but was particularly interested in the science of learning itself. That, ultimately, is what behavior analysis is all about – helping people to learn in ways that are most effective for them.

Back then, there were very few bachelor’s degree programs covering behavior analysis in depth. I enrolled in a psychology program, and it just so happened to include an optional sequence of courses leading to a certificate in behavior analysis. After taking the first course at random, I was hooked for life. (Shout-out to my alma mater, Sacramento State University, and especially to my advisors Drs. Becky Penrod and Caio Miguel!)

As part of my degree program, I was encouraged to work as an ABA practitioner in order to apply what I was learning in the classroom. While I was completing my bachelor’s degree, I worked as a technician in-home with young autistic clients, an independent living services caregiver assisting adults with disabilities, and a counselor at an after-school camp for autistic youth. I also had the opportunity to practice basic research procedures with a rat lab and assist with research in teaching young children to diversify their diet when experiencing feeding disorders.

These hugely varied experiences proved to me early in my career just how effectively and flexibly the science of behavior analysis could be used in the world.

I went on to primarily work in schools from the elementary level all the way up to doctoral, but have also overseen research related to staff training, teaching exercises and dance moves, reaching fitness goals, practicing mindfulness, improving creativity, playing video games, and so much more. For the remainder of this post, I’ll be focusing on ABA in the context of clinical services, like those provided here at Waypoints – but the diversity of the field is what drew me to it initially.

Is the Field of ABA Right for You?

As I mentioned above, I knew that a career in ABA was a perfect fit for me because I was deeply interested in learning about learning, and I wanted to help people learn and achieve their goals. I most commonly hear from people working as ABA therapists, technicians, and clinicians that they got into this line of work out of sheer love for working with kids. (Though again, while our clients at Waypoints are primarily children and youth, that isn’t always the case in the field of ABA at large!)

No job is always fun and easy, though, and working as an ABA practitioner is no exception. Clinical roles sometimes involve helping clients to overcome challenging and dangerous behaviors, requiring that we remain calm, caring, and empathetic even in stressful and quickly-changing circumstances. We must always put our clients first during sessions, sometimes leading to our own emotional and physical exhaustion.

If you’re already having a rough day for other reasons, it can be undeniably difficult to stay positive and supportive – but it’s incredibly important to show clients that they can trust you even (and especially) when they’re stressed out or dysregulated.

In acknowledgement of the potential for burnout in this field, at Waypoints we offer no-questions-asked mental health days for employees, as well as an employee assistance program that includes free counseling sessions and other support services. As we hear every time we board a plane, it’s critical to put on your own mask first before assisting others.

Those are some of the main “risks,” but if ABA is the right field for you, it can be incredibly rewarding. At Waypoints and similar companies, working with autistic children and youth in their homes and communities, here are some traits that might make you a good fit for becoming an ABA practitioner:

  • Above all, respect and care for the clients you work with
  • Playfulness and a willingness to get silly
  • Curiosity and eagerness to learn
  • Joy from seeing others succeed and thrive
  • A calm and soothing demeanor in stressful situations
  • Independence, but also willingness to ask for help and guidance when needed
  • Attention to detail when it comes to data collection and noticing what might be affecting behavior
  • Appreciation for science and figuring out how and why things work
  • Flexibility with scheduling and travel within your area
  • Reliable time-management and organization
  • Good communication skills, both face-to-face and via text message or email
  • Ability to accept and apply critical feedback – from both supervisors and from clients directly! No one “tells it like it is” like a kid does.

This list was put together based on input from Waypoints employees, and there was a lot of overlap showing good consensus on these key qualities!

ABA Careers 

If that all sounds right up your alley, what are the next steps?

Great news – becoming a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) requires no prior experience related to behavior analysis, and a large quantity of training is provided on-the-job. The BACB provides a handy infographic summarizing the requirements for getting certified as an RBT and, other than being 18 years of age and having a high school diploma or equivalent, all those requirements are fulfilled once you’ve already been hired.

Technicians working on becoming certified complete a minimum of 40 hours in training, as well as an initial competency assessment ensuring comfort and fluency with all the material on the RBT Task List. You can get a sneak peek at the first module of our own RBT training at Waypoints covering these requirements at this link!

RBTs are the absolute backbone of any ABA service provider, responsible for directly working with clients. Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), meanwhile, are responsible for training and supervising RBTs, and also performing assessments, developing client programs, monitoring client progress, and making data-based decisions. The path to becoming a BCBA is quite a bit more intensive, requiring a master’s degree in behavior analysis, a minimum of 1500 hours of supervised fieldwork, and passing an exam with a 60% first-time pass rate.

There is often room for a lot of career growth between those two positions, though, and many RBTs don’t wish to become BCBAs in the first place. The responsibilities of the two roles are very different, and you may find that you prefer to continue working directly with clients as an ABA therapist or technician rather than ultimately becoming a clinician! RBTs may instead become lead technicians, taking on additional responsibilities for training and providing feedback to newer technicians, assisting with caregiver training and other transition services, or creating instructional materials for clients and staff alike.

It’s also possible to become a Qualified Behavioral Health Provider (QBHP) with a minimum of two years’ experience and a graduate degree, though the exact requirements vary state by state. In the field of ABA, QBHPs typically serve as behavior consultants in roles similar to BCBAs, but with more supervision and oversight of their work. This allows for a greater degree of collaboration and mentorship as one progresses through their career.

“The Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) is a paraprofessional certified in behavior analysis. RBTs assist in delivering behavior-analytic services and practice under the direction and close supervision of an RBT Supervisor and/or an RBT Requirements Coordinator, who are responsible for all work RBTs perform” (BACB, 2022, p. 4).

Common responsibilities include:

  • Implementing skill acquisition and behavior reduction programs
  • Collecting client data
  • Graphing data
  • Writing progress summaries and session notes
  • Conducting preference assessments
  • Assisting with functional assessments
  • Communicating and collaborating effectively with clients, caregivers, and other professionals

ABA Careers at Waypoints

While this whole post has largely been from the perspective of working at Waypoints, I’d like to highlight a few specific perks we offer when it comes to starting a career in ABA as well. Even if you will be looking for a position elsewhere, these kinds of supports could be good to ask about during an interview with any company.

Firstly, all training time required for becoming an RBT is paid, including the 40 hours that need to be completed before working independently with clients can even begin. New employees receive a tablet to be used during client sessions, which can also be used for completion of onboarding trainings.

Similarly, employees pursuing BCBA certification are paid for all fieldwork hours related to training and client-specific programs, regardless of whether or not those hours are billable to insurance providers. No unpaid internships here!

We also provide a variety of materials to help with the certification process at both the RBT and BCBA levels, including flashcards and review quizzes, practice exams, video examples, and individualized resources and feedback. As the Director of Training, I personally meet with every employee as often as needed in order to discuss the training content until we’re both confident that they will pass their certification exam. So far, I’m proud to say that we have a 100% first-time pass rate.

In terms of continuing education, Waypoints provides stipends for full-time BCBAs to be used for maintaining certification requirements and professional development. In addition, online workshops are offered free of charge by both the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE) and our own employees. We also host a monthly journal club, encouraging discussion of new research and articles and how we can apply what we learn to our work with clients.

I really can’t say it better than Waypoints’ own employees – it may be trite, but we support and cheer each other on every day. You can get to know our awesome team at

how to become an aba therapist

If we’ve caught your eye and you’d like to learn more or apply for a position, visit us at!

Related Articles

Get in Touch With Waypoints

Whether you’re looking for diagnostic testing, one-on-one in-home ABA therapy and skill-building resources, or simply want to learn more about our unique approach, please don’t hesitate to reach out! (We love getting mail.)

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.