Embracing Compassion and Ethics: The Evolution of ABA Practices

By Mary Morrow, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA

Clinical Director of ABA Therapy


In the ever-evolving landscape of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), we find ourselves standing at a pivotal moment in the field’s history. As a Clinical Director deeply committed to fostering positive change and growth, I want to shed light on the transformative journey that has led us to the emergence of new ABA practices—ones rooted in compassion, trauma-informed care, and ethical considerations.

Historically, ABA has been a cornerstone in supporting individuals with autism and related developmental disorders. However, the evolution of our understanding and empathy has prompted a reevaluation of our practices. The traditional, sometimes rigid approaches of the past are being reimagined to embrace a more person-centered perspective—one that prioritizes the individual’s well-being above all.

Trauma-Informed ABA: A Shift in the Right Direction

One of the key distinctions between old and new ABA practices lies in our approach to trauma. Recognizing the potential impact of interventions on an individual’s emotional and psychological well-being has become paramount. New ABA practices are grounded in a trauma-informed framework, acknowledging that every person carries a unique story and set of experiences.

In the past, ABA interventions may have unintentionally neglected the emotional aspect of a person’s journey. Today, we understand the significance of creating a safe and supportive environment where individuals can thrive. Trauma-informed ABA not only considers the behavioral goals but also takes into account the emotional needs and histories of the clients we serve.

Ethical Considerations: A Moral Compass for New ABA

Ethics serve as the bedrock of any reputable profession, and ABA is no exception. The new wave of ABA practices places ethical considerations at the forefront of decision-making. We recognize that our interventions must uphold the dignity, autonomy, and rights of the individuals we support.

Ethical ABA practices extend beyond the therapy room, emphasizing transparency, collaboration, and open communication with families and stakeholders. We acknowledge the importance of cultural competence, respecting diverse perspectives, and adapting our approaches to honor the uniqueness of everyone we serve.

Embracing Compassion: The Heart of New ABA

Compassion is the driving force behind the shift in ABA practices. As clinical professionals, we understand that behind every behavior, there is a person with desires, fears, and a longing for connection. New ABA practices embrace a compassionate stance, acknowledging the humanity within everyone we have the privilege to treat.

This compassionate approach is reflected in our language, our interventions, and our commitment to fostering genuine connections. We seek to understand and celebrate the strengths of those we serve, building a collaborative partnership that empowers individuals to reach their full potential.

A Bright Future for ABA

As we navigate the path toward the future of ABA, it is so encouraging to witness the positive changes that compassion, trauma-informed care, and ethical considerations are bringing to our field. The evolution from old ABA practices to the new is a testament to our commitment to growth, learning, and, above all, the well-being of the individuals we serve. We will continue to approach our work with open hearts, open minds, and a dedication to the highest ethical standards. Together, we can shape a future where ABA is synonymous with compassion, understanding, and transformative support for individuals on their unique and amazing journeys.


Meet the Author:

Mary Morrow, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA

Clinical Director of ABA Therapy