Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.

Statement on the Right to Effective Behavioral Treatment, 1989

The Association for Behavior Analysis issues the following position statement on clients' right to effective behavioral treatment as a set of guiding principles to protect individual from harm as a result of either the lack or the inappropriate use of behavioral treatment.


The Association for Behavior Analysis, through majority vote of its members, declares that individuals who receive behavioral treatment have a right to:


  1. A therapeutic physical and social environment:Characteristics of such an environment include but are not limited to: an acceptable standard of living, opportunities for stimulation and training, therapeutic social interaction, and freedom from undue physical or social restriction.


  2. Services whose overriding goal is personal welfare:The client participates, either directly or through authorized proxy, in the development and implementation of treatment programs. In cases where withholding or implementing treatment involves potential risk and the client does not have the capacity to provide consent, individual welfare is protected through two mechanisms: Peer Review Committees, imposing professional standards, determine the clinical propriety of treatment programs; Human Rights Committees, imposing community standards, determine the acceptability of treatment programs and the degree to which they may compromise an individual's rights.


  3. Treatment by a competent behavior analyst:The behavior analyst's training reflects appropriate academic preparation, including knowledge of behavioral principles, methods of assessment and treatment, research methodology, and professional ethics; as well as practical experience. In cases where a problem or treatment is complex or may pose risk, direct involvement by a doctoral-level behavior analyst is necessary.


  4. Programs that teach functional skills:Improvement in functioning requires the acquisition of adaptive behaviors that will increase independence, as well as the elimination of behaviors that are dangerous or that in some other way serve as barriers to independence.


  5. Behavioral assessment and ongoing evaluation:Pretreatment assessment, including both interviews and measures of behavior, attempts to identify factors relevant to behavioral maintenance and treatment. The continued use of objective behavioral measurement documents response to treatment.


  6. The most effective treatment procedures available: An individual is entitled to effective and scientifically validated treatment; in turn, the behavior analyst has an obligation to use only those procedures demonstrated by research to be effective. Decisions on the use of potentially restrictive treatment are based on consideration of its absolute and relative level of restrictiveness, the amount of time required to produce a clinically significant outcome, and the consequences that would result from delayed intervention.


This statement was developed by the Association for Behavior Analysis Task Force on the Right to Effective Behavioral Treatment [members: Ron Van Houten (Chair), Saul Axelrod, Jon S. Bailey, Judith E. Favell, Richard M. Foxx, Brian A. Iwata, and O. Ivar Lovaas]. This Position Statement was accepted by the ABA Executive Council in October 1987 and by the ABA membership in 1989.



Modifed by Eddie Soh