Is ABA Therapy Expensive? - ABA Degree Programs (2023)

Is ABA Therapy Expensive? - ABA Degree Programs (1)

A person who is the caregiver, guardian or parent of a child with autism may wonder, “Is ABA therapy expensive?” This answer is important because the financial responsibilities of caring for a child with disabilities can often put a family into a dire situation. Families are often faced with the impossible decisions of getting the child the services they need in order to be able to live as independently as possible during adulthood or putting food on the table and clothes on the backs of everyone in the household.

See Also: What is it like to work in an autism clinic?

Hourly Cost of ABA Therapy

ABA therapy, or applied behavioral analysis therapy, is one medically-proven approach to help people with autism learn to navigate the world. In fact, it’s viewed by many as the gold standard approach. ABA works by incentivizing children to perform desired behaviors instead of harmful ones. However, this therapy works best when done very early. According to the Institute of Child Health and Human Development, it takes four times as long for a fourth-grader to benefit from ABA as it does for a kindergartener to benefit. This is because younger children’s brains have more plasticity, which means they can learn new skills much more easily.

It’s important to note that ABA therapy is much different than what most people think of when they picture therapy. An autistic child won’t simply visit a therapist’s office once a week. ABA is an intensive and gradual process. However, the exact number of hours per week a child needs will depend on several factors. One is the child’s level of functioning. Children with lower-functioning autism tend to need help in more areas of their lives, and they may also have more trouble with managing emotions. These children are likely to need more therapy. Higher-functioning children may need fewer hours per week, and some very high-functioning children may not need this type of therapy at all.

For children who need it, though, ABA usually lasts 25 to 40 hours per week. In some cases, higher-functioning children who just need a little behavioral help do well with just four to six hours of therapy per week. In order to find out how much therapy a child needs, the family will need to set up an evaluation with a qualified professional.

(Video) The Truth About Working as an ABA Therapist

Before starting with a treatment plan, the therapist will meet with an autistic child and their family. After assessing the child, the therapist will make a treatment plan. Since the goal of ABA therapy is to teach the child skills they will use throughout life, ABA isn’t designed to last forever. In most cases, the therapy gradually lessens until the child no longer needs it.

For parents just learning about ABA therapy, cost is very likely to be a concern. And because intensive ABA therapy lasts for so many hours, the first thing many people ask about is the hourly rate.

The average hourly cost of ABA therapy is $120 as of January 2020. For most families, this is expensive. Considering the average hourly wage for workers in the United States was $27.16 as of August 2018, this is nearly four times the average hourly earnings of an American worker. Of course, the price will vary some depending on the cost of living, but ABA therapy is typically fairly expensive.

Even for families who are fairly well-off, ABA therapy cost may be troublesome. It is also worth considering that when a household includes a child with a disability, the household income typically decreases. If two parents had worked outside of the home for paid employment, the birth of a child with a disability or the diagnosis of a disability in a child could necessitate that one parent work part-time or not at all in order to help with the child’s care. If both parents continue to work, they may need to hire in-home babysitters or caretakers who are capable of working with autistic children. This may also prove to be expensive.

When considering the hourly rate for ABA, it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind. The first is that many kinds of insurance will cover at least some of the cost. The second is the fact that investing in ABA now may save the family a significant amount of money down the line. The goal of ABA is to improve a child’s functioning, and some children may eventually be able to take care of themselves as adults. For children who cannot do this, it may be necessary to pay for long-term care. Ultimately, the cost of not doing ABA may end up outweighing the cost of ABA.

Range of Yearly Expenses for ABA Therapy

Is ABA Therapy Expensive? - ABA Degree Programs (2)

(Video) The Problem with Applied Behavior Analysis | Chloe Everett | TEDxUNCAsheville

A typical family of a child with autism will spend at least $17,000 per year on ABA therapy. Most households spend much more, with some families spending more than $40,000 per year on ABA therapy. The higher costs are related to the location where the services are provided and the number of therapy hours received by the child. A child who is severely impacted by autism may require more hours per week of ABA therapy by a highly-trained, doctoral-level psychologist rather than a master’s degree-level psychology apprentice or assistant. Some children may do better if the ABA therapist comes to their home, and this will typically cost more than an office visit would.

Because autism is a disorder on a spectrum, some children will need much more care than others. For instance, children with autism may need specialized daycare services, and these can cost as much as $11,000 per year. Teenagers or adults who can’t take care of themselves on their own may need to stay in longer-term care facilities with 24/7 nursing staff. These living arrangements often cost more than $40,000 per year. People who can live on their own but need some assistance may still need to pay around $3000 per year for in-home help.

How long a family will need to keep covering the costs of ABA therapy will depend on how the child responds to therapy. In most cases, ABA therapy will need to last one to three years, and it’s best to start when the child is younger — usually between the ages of two and six. However, some autistic adults need continued ABA therapy, especially when they have difficulty adjusting to life changes.

While family members may begin to see improvement relatively soon after the therapy starts, it’s important to consult with the child’s therapist to determine how long the therapy should continue. Repetition is a vital part of this therapy, and if the family discontinues it too soon, the child may not continue with the improved and modified behaviors.

Cost Differences With Different Types of Therapists

Understandably, ABA therapy cost can vary considerably depending on a given therapist’s qualifications and experience level. When it comes to ABA therapy, the most expensive therapists are likely to be BCBA-Ds. This stands for board-certified behavior analyst with a doctorate. These therapists have earned a Ph.D. in the field. Many BCBA-Ds don’t do the hands-on therapy, although some do. Rather, they assess the child and design a therapy plan. If another therapist does the therapy itself, the BCBA-D will supervise. This way, doctoral-level therapists have the freedom to assess and design treatment plans for several autistic children instead of focusing most of their time on rehabilitating one.

Therapists don’t need a doctorate to work in the field, and many ABA therapists are BCBAs. This stands for board-certified behavior analyst. These therapists have earned a master’s degree in the field, and they also have completed a certain number of hours training in the field with a certified BCBA or BCBA-D. After completing their degrees and gaining some experience, BCBA candidates then must pass an exam to become certified. Like BCBA-Ds, BCBAs can assess children and develop therapy plans.

(Video) ABA: Controversy in Autism Therapy (BCBA tells ALL)!

Some ABA therapists may have a certification as a board-certified assistant behavioral analyst (BCaBA). These therapists tend to charge less because the only degree requirement is a bachelor’s degree. However, they are supervised by a BCBA or BCBA-D. But regardless of the practitioner designing the plan, most people who do the therapy work with the child are registered behavior technicians (RBTs). Because of differences in degrees and experience level, every ABA practitioner has slightly different pricing. It’s always wise for parents to make sure they know how much each practitioner charges so they know how much they’ll owe upfront.

State Laws for Insurance Coverage of ABA Therapy

Is ABA Therapy Expensive? - ABA Degree Programs (3)

Each state has different laws about insurance coverage for ABA therapy. In 46 states, there are mandates for provision of ABA therapy for children with autism. The coverage level varies by the state and the child’s age. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Alabama provides a maximum coverage of $36,000 per year for ABA therapy. In Arizona, the benefit is $50,000 per year for children up to age nine and $25,000 per year for children ages nine to 16.

The laws surrounding ABA therapy can get somewhat complex. As of 2020, all states have a requirement for fully-funded health insurance plans to cover ABA treatment. Fully-insured plans are what most people think of when they think of employer-sponsored healthcare. The employer will pay a premium to the insurance company, and employees often pay a part of this premium. Employees are also responsible for copays and for meeting the plan deductible.

The requirement for coverage for ABA therapy does not extend to self-funded plans. Self-funded plans can also be obtained through an employer. With these plans, the employer runs its own healthcare plan to reduce premium cost. If you aren’t sure which type of plan you have, it’s a good idea to verify with your employer. Currently, about 45% of larger companies have healthcare plans that cover ABA therapy, and children on Medicaid qualify for the service as well.

Options for Families Paying Out-of-Pocket

Is ABA Therapy Expensive? - ABA Degree Programs (4)

(Video) What is Today's ABA? Session 160: A Q and A with Greg Hanley

If a family lives in a state where ABA therapy is not covered by insurance, or they use up their ABA insurance coverage, there are a few options for paying for the services. Families could use a Health Savings Account or Health Reimbursement Account to pay for these expenses and reduce their tax burden. Families paying cash might be able to negotiate lower fees. And some providers may offer financing options, too.

It can be overwhelming to figure out how to pay for ABA therapy, but there are also organizations that can help. Parents uncertain of where to find providers or how to pay for therapy should contact the Behavior Analysis Certification Board. This organization will be able to point families to ABA practitioners near them, and it also can sometimes help families find resources to help cover the costs. The autistic child’s pediatrician may also be a great resource. Chances are good that most pediatricians have treated children with autism, and they’re likely to be able to help parents navigate the often-confusing treatment landscape.

Several organizations that support autistic people and parents of children with autism also have resources to help with payment. Some have free guides to help families with financial planning, and many offer advice on obtaining disability benefits for an autistic child. Many of these organizations also can refer families to available grants and other forms of assistance.

Lastly, several states will allow parents to set up an ABLE account for their child. ABLE stands for Achieving a Better Life Experience. These accounts can help families save on taxes. And unlike traditional IRAs, ABLE accounts have no penalty for withdrawing money as long as it’s being withdrawn to help treat the child’s disability. ABLE accounts are also a great tool for future planning. For autistic children who will eventually live on their own, parents can set up accounts and make contributions.

Essentially, for uninsured families or families whose insurance does not cover ABA, trying to figure out how to pay for therapy can be confusing and discouraging. But there are a surprising number of free resources to help them make sure their child gets the therapy they need.


Knowing how much ABA therapy costs could help a family figure out how much of it they can afford to pay for out-of-pocket and whether or not they might qualify for programs or services that could offset the cost of the therapy. Knowing the hourly rate of ABA therapy could also help families determine how many hours of services their child can get per year under their current health insurance coverage. Knowing the answer to, “Is ABA therapy expensive?” helps families plan for the future.

(Video) The ABA hours "Quality vs Quantity" discussion

Related Resources:

  • 10 Best ABA PhD Degree Programs
  • 10 Best Online ABA Degree Programs (Bachelor’s)
  • 10 Best ABA Master’s Degree Programs
  • 10 Best ABA Master’s Degree Programs in the East
  • 10 Best ABA Master’s Degree Programs in the West
  • 20 Most Affordable Online ABA Graduate Certificate Programs
  • 5 Traits of a Successful ABA Therapist
  • 10 Duties of an ABA Therapist in an Autism Clinic
  • 5 Conditions that Benefit from ABA Therapy
  • What is In-Home ABA Therapy?
  • What Can ABA Therapy Be Used For?
  • How Much ABA Therapy is Needed?
  • Does Insurance Cover ABA Therapy?
  • What Jobs Can I Get with an ABA Degree?
  • What is the Difference Between an ABA and an LBA?
  • What Does an Applied Behavior Analyst Do?


Is ABA expensive? ›

ABA therapy costs $62,400 to $249,600 per year without insurance coverage. The monthly costs for ABA therapy can range from $4,800 to over $20,000 per month without insurance coverage. Weekly costs for ABA therapy start at $1,200, and can go up to $4,800 without insurance coverage.

Why is ABA therapy so expensive? ›

The therapy is intensive and conducted several times a week, sometimes even every day, in as many as 40 hours a week. Because of the intense, one-on-one nature of the therapy, ABA is expensive— costing as much as $60,000 a year.

Is a degree in ABA worth it? ›

Yes, a masters degree in applied behavior analysis is worth it for many students. Jobs in the community and social service field are projected to grow at a rate of 12% in the next 10 years (Bureau of Labor Statistics), much faster than the average overall job growth.

Is ABA program hard? ›

The Training Can Be Difficult in ABA Therapy Certification Programs. Getting the knowledge you need to ace that BCBA exam on round one isn't easy, though. You have to go through a lot of hard training in ABA therapy certification programs. Six years of school is a long time to study any subject.

Where does ABA make the most money? ›

Highest paying cities for ABA Therapists near United States
  • New York, NY. $45.35 per hour. 115 salaries reported.
  • Brooklyn, NY. $34.67 per hour. 116 salaries reported.
  • Bronx, NY. $32.94 per hour. 90 salaries reported.
  • Boston, MA. $24.99 per hour. 67 salaries reported.
  • Bridgewater, MA. $24.51 per hour. ...
  • Show more nearby cities.

How much does total ABA cost? ›

Pricing for Total ABA starts at $19.00/month/user.

Which state has the best ABA therapy? ›

We found that Colorado, Massachusetts, and New Jersey are the most supportive states overall.
Insurance coverageRanks 4th
ABA therapy providers17
Sensory gyms2
1 more row
Apr 19, 2022

Is behavioral therapy expensive? ›

Most individuals spend between $60 to $120 on average for an hour-long session. Given this range, most therapists charge an average rate of $90 per hour. However, various factors impact this cost, such as sliding scale therapy, the type of therapist you see, and the type of therapy session you are attending.

What are the cons of ABA therapy? ›

The cons of ABA therapy
  • ABA therapy is time-consuming. Studies have shown that intensity and duration are key to effective ABA treatment. ...
  • The results of ABA therapy are not immediate. ABA therapy is not a quick fix. ...
  • ABA therapy can be expensive without insurance.
Mar 4, 2022

What are the pros and cons of ABA? ›

Pros and Cons of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
  • PRO - Research Supports ABA as an Effective Treatment. ...
  • CON - Time and Cost Can Be Prohibitive. ...
  • PRO - Well Trained Professionals. ...
  • CON - Qualified Therapists May Be Hard to Find. ...
  • PRO - Customization and Personalization of ABA Programs. ...
  • CON - Robotic Results.
Jun 18, 2013

Is a career in ABA worth it? ›

Rewarding Career

Working in ABA therapy offers a chance to build a rewarding career focused on positively impacting people's lives. These therapists spend their time helping children or adults understand the behavioral challenges they are experiencing and teaching them ways to handle these difficulties.

Why does ABA therapy work so well? ›

The benefit of the ABA approach is that it breaks down larger skills into small manageable steps. Then, by using the power of reinforcement, the child masters each of those steps. While the ABA therapist works with your child data is collected throughout each session.

How many hours of ABA is enough? ›

It's recommended that your child gets 2-5 hours of ABA therapy per day. Children with autism will need between 10-40 hours of ABA therapy per week. Parents should expect their child to receive 40-120 hours of ABA therapy per month.

Is ABA a stressful job? ›

The job of an ABA therapist is often emotionally exhausting, which might increase the risk of stress, depression, and burnout. It's essential to be able to set boundaries and separate the work as a therapist from personal life.

Is ABA too tough on kids? ›

Too tough on kids? While use of aversive reinforcement is generally gone, there is still a complaint that ABA therapy, which can involve a lot of repetition, is tough on the children, and the skills they learn don't necessarily generalize to other situations.

Can you make 6 figures as a Bcba? ›

Behavior analysts who have their own private practice have the potential to earn more than $100,000 per year. They can make more than $145,000 per year in high-demand areas.

What is the best ABA company to work for? ›

19 Best ABA Therapy Companies To Work For
  • Autism Spectrum Therapies.
  • Golden Steps ABA.
  • Total Care ABA Therapy.
  • SupportiveCareABA.
  • ABC Behavior.
  • Go Behavioral.
  • Teamwork Healthcare.
  • Succeed ABA.

How many clients do ABA therapists have? ›

Most ABA therapists can expect to see around 10-20 clients per week while working 40 hours per week.

What is the success rate of ABA? ›

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is among the widely preferred treatments for autism. With an over 89% percent success rate, the treatment can be considered a go-to plan for autistic pediatric therapy.

How long does ABA training last? ›

In order to earn an ABA certificate, a person has to complete the required coursework. Most certifications require 270 hours of coursework at an accredited institution if the person holds a master's degree.

Can you do ABA everyday? ›

ABA is also intense, with treatment being prescribed daily, up to 40 hours per week. This is a significant departure from the typical service model, which typically would involve monthly or weekly visits, often for as little as 30 minutes per week.

What is the best age for ABA therapy? ›

Most children are between 2 and 6 years old when they begin ABA treatment. If a child starts at age 2, ABA can help him develop better communication skills and help him learn to follow directions and simple commands, to prepare him for pre-school.

What state has the highest rate of autism? ›

The rate of autism in the U.S. went from 1 in 150 in 2000 to 1 in 100 in 2022. The state with the highest rate of diagnosed autism is Florida. The state with the lowest rate of diagnosed autism is Texas.

Is ABA in high demand? ›

Yes, ABA therapists are in high demand. The growing number of children and adults with autism being diagnosed each year means the need for qualified therapists is continuing to increase. This has resulted in a shortage of qualified professionals who can provide these services.

Why does therapy have to be so expensive? ›

In order to receive a license; therapists have to go through a lot of training and years before they can actually work. Lastly, counseling is expensive because there are many bills to pay: Rent and utilities. State licensure fees, each licensure requires annual fees to be paid.

Is therapy always expensive? ›

Without insurance, traditional therapy can cost anywhere from $100 to $200 per session, depending on your diagnosis and treatment. How long your session is will also influence the final price. Most online therapy services -- like BetterHelp and TalkSpace -- cost around $60 to $90 per session.

Are expensive therapists worth it? ›

Many feel the money they spend on their therapy is well worth the investment. It's not easy to put a monetary value on your mental health. In the long run, though, therapy can definitely pay in terms of the growth you can see in your own life.

How do I get out of ABA? ›

Gradually decreasing hours rather than just pulling the plug on ABA therapy entirely is a better approach. Decreasing hours will allow you, your child and their therapist to see if they can continue their positive behaviors with less therapy.

Which is better occupational therapy or ABA therapy? ›

Behaviors vs. skills: ABA focuses on meaningful behaviors, while OT addresses skills needed to function in everyday life. ABA uses a more systematic and evaluative model to identify socially meaningful behaviors for your child. In contrast, OT focuses on helping children develop specific skills.

Can ABA cause trauma? ›

Respondents of all ages who were exposed to ABA were 86 percent more likely to meet the PTSD criteria than respondents who were not exposed to ABA. Adults and children both had increased chances (41 and 130 percent, respectively) of meeting the PTSD criteria if they were exposed to ABA.

Who benefits most from ABA therapy? ›

ABA therapy can help people living with ASD but also those who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and/or other intellectual disabilities.

Why ABA is the best? ›

The Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) approach and its techniques can help autistic children improve their social skills, self-care skills, communication skills, play skills and ability to manage their own behaviour. It can also help to reduce behaviour like inattention, aggression and screaming.

How do I move up in ABA? ›

5 Ways to Advance Your Career as an Applied Behavior Analyst
  1. Take College Classes. ...
  2. Become Certified. ...
  3. Join Professional Organizations. ...
  4. Attend Support Group Meetings. ...
  5. Sign Up for Advanced Courses.

What else can I do with an ABA degree? ›

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Career Opportunities
  • Behavior Analyst. When you think of careers in the ABA field, behavior analysts may be top of mind. ...
  • Behavior Analyst Consultant. ...
  • Clinical Director. ...
  • Special Education Teachers. ...
  • Wellness Coach. ...
  • Nonprofit Opportunities. ...
  • School Psychologist. ...
  • Social Worker.

What does a typical ABA session look like? ›

In a child's typical day in ABA therapy, every child works through therapy sessions in a block rotation schedule with various therapists – every session lasting 2 to 3 hours – to keep things fresh and allow the child to generalize across therapy styles.

Why do I love being an ABA therapist? ›

Being an ABA therapist is incredibly rewarding and seeing the gains in each child gives me the aspiration to continue working hard each day. I love telling parents the progress their child has made, and enjoy hearing how therapy has impacted their child for the better. The best part is that every day is different.

Is 40 hours of ABA too much? ›

Comprehensive ABA treatment is a larger commitment. It typically consists of 26-40 hours of one-on-one direct therapy each week. This type of intensive treatment program will be recommended when a child shows deficits in the majority of developmental domains.

How do I get more ABA clients? ›

5 Ways to Market Your ABA Practice
  1. Build a Brand.
  2. Establish a Referral Program.
  3. Connect with Community Groups.
  4. Local SEO and Social Media.
  5. Consider Professional Ethics.

Why are ABA sessions so long? ›

Longer sessions allow for additional learning opportunities across multiple settings and individuals. Our clinicians can teach independent play skills after a child is dropped off from the bus, making a snack, and telling a parent about their school day.

What is the burnout rate for BCBAs? ›

BCBA Burnout Rate

72% of Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) and behavior technicians reported having medium to high levels of burnout.

How to avoid burnout in ABA? ›

5 Ways ABA practices can reduce burnout
  1. Reduce the Workload of BCBAs. ...
  2. Increase BCBAs' Sense of Control of their Work. ...
  3. Provide Sufficient Resources to BCBAs. ...
  4. Provide Positive Reinforcement to BCBAs. ...
  5. Minimize Administrative Tasks Expected of BCBAs.
Oct 11, 2022

What is the personality of an ABA therapist? ›

A successful applied behavior analyst is empathetic, collaborative, unflappable, dedicated, and well-informed.

What age is best for ABA? ›

Most children are between 2 and 6 years old when they begin ABA treatment. If a child starts at age 2, ABA can help him develop better communication skills and help him learn to follow directions and simple commands, to prepare him for pre-school.

What is the success rate of ABA therapy? ›

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is among the widely preferred treatments for autism. With an over 89% percent success rate, the treatment can be considered a go-to plan for autistic pediatric therapy.

When is it too late for ABA? ›

It's never too late to start ABA therapy

These will include the learner's current behavioral, social, academic, communication, self-help, and other needs from different curricular areas. This is why many individuals benefit from ABA therapy even when starting a program later in their development.

Is 4 too late for ABA? ›

The Right Age Range

On average, parents of children with autism spectrum disorder tend to start ABA therapy as early as 2 years old and as late as 5 years old.

Why should I choose ABA therapy? ›

ABA therapy programs can help:

Increase language and communication skills. Improve attention, focus, social skills, memory, and academics. Decrease problem behaviors.


1. Becoming a BCBA? Which ABA grad school to choose
(Road to BCBA)
2. What Parents Can Expect from ABA Therapy
(Autism Live)
3. ABA Therapy is abuse | an autistic's thoughts on ABA | #StopTheShock
(paige layle)
4. A NEW Certification in Behavior Analysis?
(The Daily BA)
5. Getting Started With ABA Services and Insurance
(ABA Centers of America)
6. Dr. Service's SHOCKING Explanation of ABA therapy and Alternatives
(Neurodivergent Doctor)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Trent Wehner

Last Updated: 04/02/2023

Views: 5506

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (76 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Trent Wehner

Birthday: 1993-03-14

Address: 872 Kevin Squares, New Codyville, AK 01785-0416

Phone: +18698800304764

Job: Senior Farming Developer

Hobby: Paintball, Calligraphy, Hunting, Flying disc, Lapidary, Rafting, Inline skating

Introduction: My name is Trent Wehner, I am a talented, brainy, zealous, light, funny, gleaming, attractive person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.