Behavior Interventionist Job Description
Behavior interventionists typically work in schools or outpatient treatment facilities, often those focusing on a specific issue, such as autism. In many cases they treat children and teens, though they may also help adult patients. Behavior interventionists devise ways for patients to stop engaging in unwanted or troublesome behaviors, such as acting aggressively. This is a direct patient care role that requires significant time meeting with patients and collaborating with everyone from teachers to other mental health professionals to develop the most effective strategies. Behavior interventionists need formal training and stellar interpersonal skills.
Behavior Interventionist Duties and Responsibilities
The tasks assigned to behavior interventionists depend largely on the organization they work for. However, direct patient care and long-term behavior management are key in all settings, as are the following duties:
Work One-on-One with Patients
Behavior interventionists meet individually with clients to assess their needs and provide ongoing treatment, either at the facility or in the patient's home, and sometimes a combination of both. If they work at a school, behavior interventionists may only see their patients on campus during school hours, but if they work for a counseling center, they may travel to a patient's home for sessions and evaluations.
In addition to meeting with patients, behavior interventionists sometimes simply observe them to get a better idea of how they interact with others and how they manage various situations. This is especially true of behavior interventionists working in schools, who sometimes visit student classrooms to watch how clients behave during class.
Develop Treatment Plans
Based on their interactions with and observations of patients, behavior interventionists create a long-term plan for modifying unwanted behaviors, such as acting out in the classroom or abusing drugs or alcohol. They typically do this in collaboration with other people in the patient's life, such as teachers (if they work at a school) and doctors (if they work at a treatment center). They may also work with the patient's family to develop and implement behavior modification strategies.
Update Patient Files
Each time they work with a client, behavior interventionists document the patient's progress and any issues encountered during the session. This requires taking copious, accurate, and detailed notes so that other members of the treatment team can use the information to develop ongoing treatment plans that cater to the patient's specific needs.
Manage Crisis Situations
In addition to providing routine long-term care, a behavior interventionist takes prompt action if a patient is in a crisis. This can include everything from recommending inpatient treatment to handling aggressive or violent behavior while coordinating with other healthcare professionals and the patient's family.
Behavior Interventionist Skills and Qualifications
Behavior interventionists need patience and compassion, as well as a talent for seeing the big picture and identifying long-term solutions to their patients' challenges. Employers typically seek candidates with at least one year of patient care experience in addition to the following skills:
- Mental health expertise – patients may have challenges ranging from autism to anger management problems, which requires behavior interventionists to have a deep understanding of mental disorders, behavioral issues, and other psychological conditions
- Clinical experience – this job revolves around regular patient interactions, so behavior interventionists need previous experience working with patients individually
- Computer knowledge – behavior interventionists use computers to create patient files and update them after every interaction or incident
- Communication skills – writing reports and documenting patient cases is a key component of this job, as are encouraging patients to open up and giving them treatment recommendations
- Adaptability – no two patients are alike, which means behavior interventionists need to tailor their approach to each client they treat. In a crisis situation, they need the flexibility to think quickly and take immediate and effective action
Behavior Interventionist Education and Training
Like other mental health professionals, behavior interventionists typically need at least a bachelor's degree, preferably in a field such as psychology or social work. Some employers prefer candidates with a master's degree in one of these fields, while other employers may accept candidates with an associate's degree.
Behavior Interventionist Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (such as behavior interventionists) earn a median annual salary of around $43,000. Those in the top 10 percent earn $70,000 or more per year, while those in the bottom 10 percent earn less than $27,000. Behavior interventionists and other mental health counselors who work for government agencies earn the highest wages, while those who work at residential treatment centers tend to earn the least.
The BLS expects employment opportunities for mental health professionals to increase 23 percent through 2026, which is a significantly faster rate of growth than for other professions. This increasing demand stems in part from an effort to send criminal offenders to treatment rather than to jail and from an increased willingness to seek assistance for behavioral disorders and other mental health issues.
There are plenty of online resources to help you launch a career as a behavior interventionist. We've rounded up some of the best, including books and professional associations:
National Behavioral Intervention Team Association – NBITA accepts members from a wide range of mental health professions and offers various resources, including a violence risk assessment and guides to writing reports and assessing threats. The association also hosts an annual conference and provides online training and certification
Behavior Intervention Manual: Goals, Objectives, and Intervention Strategies – this in-depth guide offers behavior interventionists dozens of specific strategies they can implement in the classroom to help modify students' behavior. It also outlines goals and objectives mental health professionals can use to measure and track student progress
Implementing Effective Behavior Intervention Plans: 8 Steps to Success – this book uses case studies and a step-by-step plan to help readers create effective behavior intervention strategies for patients from all backgrounds and with a diverse array of behavioral issues