ABA Therapy: Why It’s So Popular & Who Can Benefit

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a therapy that aims to improve positive behaviors and reduce negative behaviors utilizing scientific theories, including classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

This well-researched and venerable therapy option is most closely associated with the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but in recent years, other groups have begun to find this program equally useful. Today, we’ll explore the popularity of ABA and investigate some of the groups that can benefit from Applied Behavior Analysis. 

Why ABA Therapy Is Popular

It’s Backed by Science

The origin of Applied Behavior Analysis stems back to 1959, where the root concept was outlined in an article entitled “The Psychiatric Nurse as Behavioral Engineer” by Teodoro Ayllon and Jack Michael. The pair were training staff at a psychiatric hospital to develop a token economy, which relied on the principles of operant conditioning to help curb undesirable behaviors in mentally ill individuals. From its inception, ABA relied upon the foundational concepts of modern psychology, namely conditioning. 

Since then, ABA has evolved with the times to reflect a growing understanding of the human mind, particularly when it comes to autism and other developmental disabilities. It has been rigorously tested, and researchers continue to report their findings in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, which is published by well-respected academic publisher Wiley-Blackwell. 

ABA Therapy Offers Great Personalization

Part of the reason that ABA is popular is that it is very customizable, exactly matching the needs of its patients. The underpinnings of the human mind remain the same, but ABA can be utilized to work on a variety of goals based on the patient’s needs. For example, if an autistic child is struggling to coordinate in order to learn writing, an ABA therapist can assist them in practicing these concepts until they are able to write without difficulty. 

This Therapy Can Treat Numerous Conditions

Though ABA is most closely associated with autism, its concepts can be applied to almost any condition that manifests in undesirable or damaging behaviors, particularly repetitive ones. This is because it utilizes classical and operant conditioning to reinforce positive behaviors and extinguish negative behaviors, the underpinning of any personal change. 

Who Can Benefit from ABA Therapy?

While anyone can benefit from ABA in theory, research has focused on a few key groups that can derive the most benefit from Applied Behavior Analysis.

Children With Autism

ABA is most well-associated with autism, particularly in helping autistic children learn essential social skills and develop their independence. This is because ABA therapy helps to break large, complex tasks into more manageable sections, which can then be built upon over time until the child is consistently performing the desired behavior. 

Another reason that parents of autistic children find ABA therapy incredibly helpful is because it can help teach children to self-regulate, a crucial skill for adulthood. Autistic individuals sometimes struggle to identify emotions in themselves or in others, which can lead to excessive stress and maladaptive behaviors. A skilled therapist will help autistic children match their physical sensations and thoughts to feelings, and then model appropriate responses.

As autism treatment is one of the most popular applications of ABA, parents can easily find ABA therapy in Charlotte, NC, or any other area. It’s also frequently covered by insurance. 

Trauma Survivors

PTSD is a complex disorder that can cause difficulty managing emotion, handling daily tasks, and self-regulating, especially when it stems from long-term abuse. Trauma survivors may find themselves unable to manage their daily lives; on the other hand, they also may exert extreme control over their environment, unable to go with the flow

Part of this problem is an inability to cope with triggers that they associate with their past experiences. These triggers can be as indistinct as getting nervous in loud environments or as specific as a certain scent. An ABA therapist can utilize exposure therapy to diminish the negative response to this stimulus, helping to relieve the severe reactions that cause distress. 

Drug Abuse

In addition to the physical dependence on a substance, drug abuse is highly ritualized; users start to associate certain activities, feelings, or actions with their drug of choice. After the detox period is managed at a drug rehab center, sober individuals need to break the connection between using drugs and other behaviors, which is where ABA therapy can help. 

The therapist can assess what situations, activities, or emotions have become entangled with the addiction and then begin to break them down, assisting the client in making different choices when they come across similar circumstances. This allows the client to practice new, healthier behaviors with the support of a therapist before they are tempted again. 


Applied Behavior Analysis has its roots in the 1960s, but it has continued to evolve in recent decades. Current ABA practices focus strongly on positive rewards for behavior, which fosters a warm relationship between client and therapist. For autistic children, this extends to the entire family system, helping everyone learn behaviors that will support the special needs of an autistic child. 

However, it is not just autistic children that can benefit, but also trauma survivors and those struggling with addiction. This versatile, customizable therapy shows promise in many other fields as well, all based on a strong foundation of psychology.