Uncovering Interests and Talents Through ABA Therapy

Two people playing the piano together.

When people think about ABA Therapy, they typically envision an environment rich in opportunities to promote communication, social skills and play skills. But what many people may not consider is that ABA Therapy can also help develop an individual’s vocational interests and jumpstart hobbies, which is especially important for individuals with autism. This post shares the story of one client who turned an interest into a new skill.  

The client, who will not be named for privacy purposes, found himself paired up with Healing Haven Registered Behavior Technician, Alex Levy, in fall of 2022. During their daily therapy sessions, the duo uncovered that they had a shared interest in music. With this, they both gravitated toward playing the piano in our music room. 

Many clients, employees, and parents alike have heard the floating, peaceful melodies of the piano filling the air in our clinic throughout the past year. Alex can often be heard practicing outside of his ABA Therapy hours. If heard during therapy hours, however, it is likely Alex playing piano with his client or his client playing solo. 

The power of music

Alex said his interest in learning to play the piano began when he saw a coworker playing it. “It just sounded very serene and peaceful,” said Alex. He has been taking advantage of the in-clinic piano, practicing on it for nearly a year. 

When Alex began working with his client, neither of them knew much about playing the piano. But once Alex started experimenting with tunes and sounds, his client began to gravitate toward it, too.  

The client’s Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), Amanda, said that Alex and his client’s bond is an amazing and beautiful one to see. “Alex has been able to connect with him and engage with him on a whole new level,” she said. “I am still in shock whenever I do a supervision session and hear [the client] play a new song or show me a new skill he has learned on the piano. They both make me want to learn to play too!”

Recognizing your child’s interests

The mother of Alex’s client reports that her son has had a noticeable interest in music since he was a toddler. “We have pictures of him trying to play different instruments,” she said. “We also have pictures of him from a few years ago also trying to play the piano at Costco.” 

She said that, considering her son’s past interest in music and the piano, she wasn’t surprised to hear he was toying around with the piano at Healing Haven. What was surprising was the level to which her son was learning and developing musically.  

The magnitude of his talent became apparent one day when she took her son to get a haircut. She explained that the establishment she takes him to has a bounce house and a piano in the back to be enjoyed by the clients afterwards as a reward.  

“He just sat down at the piano and started to play something and I was so surprised and excited to hear him,” exclaimed the client’s mom. “I recorded him and showed my husband and family. I mentioned it to Alex later and he said, ‘yeah, he’s actually really good and is picking it up.’ We were so happy to hear that!”  

A flourishing talent

A tune Alex began learning early on in his piano journey is Viva La Vida by Coldplay. The catchy, repetitive, and uplifting chords captured his client’s attention immediately. This became a song heard regularly around the clinic. After a short amount of time, it was indistinguishable if it was Alex or his young client playing.  

Aside from Viva La Vida, Alex said his client likes to practice Beethoven tunes as well as various other classic melodies. “Usually when we play the piano together, my client likes to mimic whatever I play. However, he does add a lot of different variations to the things that I play or have shown him,” Alex said.  

The client’s mom is unsure if her son can read music notes or if he relies on sounds and visuals he receives from Alex’s playing. Alex believes it is the latter, which isn’t an unusual special ability for individuals on the autism spectrum.  

Alex can relate to this skill, as he is also on the spectrum. “Being on the spectrum definitely has helped me increase pattern recognition when it comes to learning to play instruments, but I do like to think I have a little bit of talent,” Alex joked.  

The benefits of music

There are many benefits of playing music for those on the autism spectrum. The client’s mom thinks her son’s newfound hobby and passion has made a positive impact on his behavior. “I think he goes to play when he needs to relax and sort of unwind from the day,” she said. “I would also say it has given him some extra confidence. He loves when we clap and cheer him on while he plays. He gets a big smile on his face and seems to stand taller when he gets up.”  

Amanda can attest to this. She said she has noticed that her client loves having others listen to and watch him play the piano and that he has even allowed peers to play alongside him. “Usually, he only wants his therapists and familiar people around him, but this has allowed him to let other people into his world,” Amanda said.

Alex has noticed a difference in his client’s behavior in the clinic as he’s gotten more involved in playing the piano as well. “It’s kind of given him more of a sense of entertainment and joy,” Alex said.  

Last November, another Healing Haven parent gifted a piano to the client’s family after hearing him play in the clinic and learning that the family was seeking an in-home piano for him.  The family is hoping to start piano lessons at home soon. Alex’s plans for playing the piano include getting an in-home piano and making more time to practice. 

Helping your child with autism find their passion

“The interest in music has always been there for him [her son], but ABA and his therapist provided the opportunity for him to learn and explore playing the piano,” said the client’s mom. “We wouldn’t have known that he has the passion and talent for piano if not for his exposure and opportunity during his therapy sessions.” 

At Healing Haven, we love to help children discover their interests and passions through our ABA Therapy. If you’re looking for potential hobbies to try out with your child, check out this list of ideas.

Applying and Interviewing at Healing Haven: What to Expect

applying and interviewing at Healing Haven

Applying and interviewing for jobs often involves a lot of unknown and nerves. As we continue to hire to meet the demand for our therapy services, read some helpful info on our hiring process.

Applying at Healing Haven

Applying at Healing Haven is incredibly easy. Simply fill out the form on our Careers page and a recruiter will contact you!

For the Behavior Technician position at Healing Haven, we look for candidates who meet the following qualifications:

  • Experience with children or teens—not required, only preferred. Maybe you’re a parent, or grew up with siblings and cousins. That counts as experience with kids! It’s a bonus if you’ve worked with kids with special needs as well. But again, not required.
  • Friendly, positive attitude
  • Strong communication and listening skills
  • Flexibility with change
  • Reliable / Dependable
  • Ability to work in a fast-paced environment
  • Patience
  • A passion to work with children

Everything else can be taught!

There is not a single moment in these buildings where I do not feel like I am supported, and there is always a team member providing help.” -Aaron, Behavior Technician

Interviewing at Healing Haven

Interviewing at Healing Haven starts with a phone call with one of our Recruiters. This initial interview serves as a two-way meeting to learn as much as we can about you. Additionally, you’ll learn about our company culture and day-to-day operations.

During the interview, we review the history of our company and provide an overview of the programs offered. The goal of this is to give you a well-rounded understanding of the Behavior Technician’s role and how each department contributes to the client’s progress. Our recruiters review both the highlights and challenges of the position to help you understand what the role is like. This process helps identify if someone will truly be a good fit for the position.

If both parties show interest in moving forward, we schedule an in-person tour of the facility within days of the initial meeting. During the tour, you’ll see how a typical day runs during our hours of operation and observes the one-on-one interactions between the clients and Behavior Technicians. Our Recruiters are looking for interactions initiated, observations made, and questions asked by you during this meeting. You’ll also observe a few ABA sessions, as well as Speech or Occupational therapy sessions.

Finally, prior to a position offer, you need to provide two professional references and must complete a background check.

child and Healing Haven ABA Therapist

I admire the clinic’s emphasis on a more naturalist approach to teaching ABA, and I believe that we try our best to create a fun, engaging and safe environment for our children. – Halee, Behavior Technician

Our Advice for Interviewing

For the Interview:

  • Plan enough time to allow for traffic and finding the correct building for your interview so you arrive on time.
  • Turn off your phone to eliminate possible distractions during the interview.
  • Conduct yourself in a friendly and professional manner
  • Prepare by reading over the company website to understand the organization and the position for which you are applying
  • Show your interest by preparing clarifying questions
  • Be honest and clear about your expectations! Our recruiters want to make sure this is a good fit on both sides. If you are uncomfortable with one or more of the requirements discussed, it’s important to identify them early on to be sure this is the best fit for you!

For the In-person Tour:

  • Ask questions or make observations that show your interest
  • Take the time to say hello to staff and clients when possible
  • Show interest in the observed client’s activities – If a client asks you to throw a ball or clap for them when they get something right, show you are willing to have fun and get involved!

“One of my favorite things about being an RBT is seeing the progress that the kids I work with make. This position is extremely rewarding, and I truly love seeing how much these children can grow. I also love seeing the intelligence from every one of them.” –Melissa, Registered Behavior Technician

Job Training at Healing Haven

Our hands-on, in-person training process for the Behavior Technician position lasts roughly 2-3 weeks, depending on how quickly the new employee picks up on the material learned. We mostly hire applicants without experience, so the training process is very gradual easing them in. During the first few days as a new hire, you will observe a session with an experienced RBT and a client. You’ll see how a typical day is run and acclimate to the new environment.

The next step is a process called “pairing” where you start positively connecting with a client, building rapport and instructional control. Once you and the client have begun building a relationship, you’ll start running goals with support from trainers until the trainer fades themselves out of the session completely.

child with ABA Therapist at Healing Haven

In addition to the hands-on training, new employees complete a 40-hour online RBT training to become certified as a Registered Behavior Technician®. Healing Haven helps certify all new employees as RBTs within their first few months of employment.

There is so much to learn in the field of ABA – there is no way to learn it all in two to three weeks! During their first 90 days, new staff receive ongoing training and heavy support from the training department. It is important that you feel both confident in the skills you teach and comfortable asking questions along the way.

“When you get to witness the kiddos reach new milestones and you know that you helped contribute to that, it is a feeling that you won’t find in your ordinary work place.” -Akerria, Behavior Technician

child painting with Healing Haven ABA Therapist

Looks like you’ve made it this far, so you’re probably intrigued in applying and interviewing at Healing Haven! If so, you can learn more about us and easily apply in just minutes. We’re looking forward to meeting you and hope you will be part of our team.  

Why Consider a Job in ABA Therapy

If you are looking for a stable career that is more than just clocking in and out, jobs in ABA Therapy are plentiful and worth considering.   

This field we work in – behavioral health and autism therapy – provides critical support for children and teens with autism, and their families. The demand for our services continues to grow rapidly. As a result, we continue to hire for our ABA Therapist position. This role works one-on-one with the children coming to us for support.   

So how does ABA therapy work and what do ABA Therapists do? You may be wondering if this position is the right fit for you. So, let’s break down the aspects of our ABA Therapist position so you can gain a better understanding.  

What do jobs in ABA Therapy look like?

An ABA Therapist works one-on-one with an individual with autism providing Applied Behavior Analysis therapy. ABA therapy focuses on improving communication, increasing age-appropriate social skills, improving independent daily living skills, and decreasing problematic behaviors while teaching functional replacement behaviors through reinforcement. ABA therapy is high in demand, evidence-based and the most recommended therapy for autism spectrum disorder.   

ABA Therapist working with child

At Healing Haven, we receive constant requests from families for our therapy services. Due to this, we are regularly looking for flexible, patient and energetic individuals for our ABA therapist position. Our staff come from all types of educational and career backgrounds. Many begin working here as an ABA therapist before moving on to other roles, some pursue education and certification to become BCBAs (Board Certified Behavior Analyst), Occupational and Speech Therapists, or careers in psychology, education, and more. Others have moved onto other positions within the company such as Human Resources, Recruiting, Insurance/Billing, and Training. You never know where a job in ABA therapy could lead! 

So why pursue a job in ABA therapy? Here are several reasons among many that make the ABA Therapist position a fantastic choice. 

Teaching Through Play

Working with kids means lots of play and fun. An ABA therapist weaves in learning through naturalistic teaching strategies. These include games, creative crafts, music, and engaging in free play with the client. Not a bad way to “work!” 

A Supportive Work Environment

A large part of ABA is either rewarding or ignoring behavior. ABA therapists are trained to observe behavior, record data, and follow behavior protocol as opposed to reacting to occurrences. This creates a reinforcing environment for the child as well as for the staff, promoting healthy teamwork.  In addition, BCBAs closely supervise so you feel supported and comfortable working with your client.  

team of ABA Therapists
“The culture at Healing Haven is awesome. Everyone works so hard for the kids and they support each other through everything. The work we do is not easy so it is nice to have a place that feels comfortable and supportive!” – Current ABA therapist

Dynamic Days

In ABA therapy, each day is different, allowing for a dynamic workday. Your client’s mood and needs shift from day to day which changes up your work with them. Clients make progress on individualized goals and programs so there is regular growth. This leads to new goals and skills to work on. 

Rewarding Impact

Perhaps the best part of being an ABA therapist is seeing your client progress. You form a connection with one child at a time, learn them well, cheer them on and see them grow each day. In an ABA therapist job, you develop a trusting relationship with not only the client but also their family. It is incredibly fulfilling to know that your work positively impacts more than one individual. 

Registered Behavior Technician working with a child
“My favorite part about working at Healing Haven is the kids I’ve worked with. I get beyond excited to see them when I come into work.” – Current ABA Therapist


We provide thorough training for our new ABA therapists. Our Training team will fully equip you so you are confident and ready to begin working one-on-one with a client. Training is a minimum of 80 hours and includes: 

  • In-person instruction module teaching 
  • In-person shadowing at the clinic 
  • Completing online modules for the Registered Behavior Technician® certification  

Once hired, you will spend a couple weeks shadowing another ABA therapist and their client. During this time, you will gradually take on responsibilities from the ABA therapist until you are able to independently run the client’s whole session. This period of training is very important as it establishes a relationship between the therapist and the client so the client will respond positively to what their therapist asks of them. We also provide Crisis Prevention Training through QBS to all ABA Therapists once they get comfortable in their role. 

Healing Haven also requires each ABA therapist to receive their Registered Behavior Technician certification. This ensures our staff are fully qualified to provide the best services for clients. After completing 40 hours of online training modules, you will take the RBT exam (Healing Haven pays for this.) Upon passing the exam, you become an RBT and may begin to track supervision hours with your BCBA. For more info on this, visit the Behavior Analyst Certification Board website.

Have you gained a better understanding of what jobs in ABA therapy are and where they can lead? If you want to join an in-demand field at a growing company, while making an impact on a child’s life, we encourage you to apply! Get more information and apply here.

Join our Team: ABA Hiring Event

ABA Hiring Event Join the Healing Haven Team
ABA Hiring Event Join the Healing Haven Team

The team at Healing Haven has an exciting announcement! We will be hosting an onsite ABA Hiring Event on Friday, April 28th, 2023 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. This event will take place in our administrative offices, located at 30701 Barrington St., Suite 125, Madison Heights, MI, 48071.

This hiring event coincides with Autism Acceptance Month in April, where we work to spread a message of acceptance and inclusion of individuals with autism in our society all month long. As a result of the continual increase in children receiving an autism diagnosis, the demand for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy services continues to grow as well.

We want you!

Our team at Healing Haven is recruiting dedicated and energetic individuals for full and part-time ABA Therapist and Registered Behavior Technician positions. These roles provide one-on-one therapy for children to increase communication, social, play, and life skills. Our ABA Therapists have the opportunity to make a direct impact on a child’s life–and that impact has ripple effects on their family and friends.

Interested candidates can schedule an interview time slot in advance here. Additionally, walk-ins for interviews are welcome between 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Individuals should bring their resumes, and prepare to interview with the Human Resources team. Job offers may be offered on the spot at this ABA hiring event! Candidates will have the opportunity to tour our therapy clinics. They can also meet our President & Founder, Jamie McGillvary, MS, LLC, BCBA, LBA.

A few important details to know:

First, we don’t require ABA field experience. We provide thorough hands-on, didactic, and online training to develop competency in applied behavior analysis. Additionally, Healing Haven provides Registered Behavior Technician® (RBT®) Certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Further. We offer continual support and training throughout employment. And finally, there are many opportunities for growth and advancement in our company.

At Healing Haven, we serve children and teens ages 2-16 with autism spectrum disorder and other development needs and their families. We have three clinics on our campus. As a result of the steady increase in children being diagnosed at younger ages, our newest clinic is designed for this group. 

Our Early Intervention clinic opened in August 2021 and serves our youngest clients. Our Young Learners clinic serves children in Pre-K through early elementary. And our School & Community Readiness clinic serves our oldest clients who are in upper elementary, middle, and early high school.

ABA and Autism

In March 2023, the Center for Disease Control updated the autism diagnosis prevalence in the United States. The rate increased to 1 in 36 children. It’s important to note that ABA therapy is the most frequently recommended therapy for treating children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. ABA Therapy teaches children how to communicate, play and socialize with their peers, as well as learn important life skills.

Sign up for an interview below. Then learn more about us by heading over to the Join Our Team page. And to help you prepare for the interview, check out Applying and Interviewing at Healing Haven: to Expect.

We hope to meet you on April 28!

BCBA and Special Education Pro: A Winning Combination


BCBA and Special Education Pro: A Winning Combination

Employee Spotlight: Meet Julie, BCBA

When a child is diagnosed with autism, or any other disability, parents are thrust into learning about the impact of the diagnosis. And if that disability also impedes the child’s learning, parents must also learn how to navigate the special education system, IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and what their child is entitled to in their education. Thankfully Healing Haven clients have access to an expert in this area in addition to the skills she brings as a BCBA.

When Julie was in high school she worked with kids with Down syndrome and fell in love with them. Her junior year she knew she wanted to work in Special Education. She received her undergrad in Cognitive Impairments from Western Michigan University and received her Master’s in Autism from Oakland University.

After 15 years working in Special Education Julie was ready for a change.  With 10 years of teaching high school students and transition programs, and five years as a Special Education Consultant, ensuring school districts were in compliance with IDEA, she decided to move into the world of Applied Behavior Analysis and become a BCBA.

Transitioning to a Career in ABA Therapy

In order to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Julie went back to school to earn her post-graduate certificate in ABA. This required her to take five courses and accumulate 1500 hours in supervision. She took courses while working full-time and she also became pregnant with her first child. When she was finally able to sit for the BCBA exam, Julie was juggling her full-time job and having a two-year-old at home.

Julie had our founder Jamie McGillivary as a professor in her ABA classes at Oakland University.  She had been to the original Healing Haven clinic in Berkley; however, she worked for another ABA therapy provider to earn her supervision hours. The day Julie passed the BCBA exam she received a call from Jamie. She wanted to see the new Healing Haven clinic in Madison Heights, so agreed to Jamie’s invitation to come meet with her.

Drawn to This Special Clinic

As Julie toured Healing Haven and reconnected with her former professor, she was overwhelmed by the special feel of this place. She had not intended to leave her other ABA therapy employer when she walked in that day. But Julie called her husband as she pulled away, telling him Jamie offered her a BCBA position and she could not turn it down.

“This is one of the most supportive places I’ve ever worked. I never dread coming to work,” described Julie. She said there is no fear in asking questions. “I still had to learn how to be a BCBA in the style of Healing Haven. My previous employer was kind of ‘sink or swim’ training, whereas here there is so much support.”

Julie experienced the support of her new team right out of the gate. Within weeks of starting at Healing Haven, Julie discovered she was pregnant with her second child. After 8 weeks maternity leave she returned to work, creating behavior plans for previous and new clients.

One of Julie’s favorite aspects of working here is that she loves being able to witness the gains the kids make in skills, communication and behavior. And because she’s always worked with teenagers, she is excited to be a part of the pre-vocational skills the older Healing Haven clients are learning.

Another favorite experience is witnessing a child who didn’t start ABA therapy until he was 11 years old. “He’s like our poster child that ABA can work for kids who don’t start when they are really young,” explains Julie. “He has made so much progress in functional communication and mastering programs. It’s so rewarding to witness!”

Our Go-To Special Ed Expert

It’s obvious Julie values both her co-workers and the clients she works with. And the feeling is mutual. Both our team of BCBAs and the parents we serve benefit from Julie’s expertise in special education. She consults with parents at all stages of the IEP process (Individualized Education Plan). From first assessments and IEP’s to transitioning to high school, Julie is an expert in navigating the often stressful world of IEPs. Julie also helps parents think through the future of post-secondary programs and what will be a good fit for their teenager. In addition, she is the go-to special education / IEP expert for our staff as well, helping them answer client questions and advocate for families in need of support during their child’s IEP process.

BCBA Career Advice

With Julie’s knowledge of working at another ABA provider, she recommends you find a very strong practicum experience. She explains, “Every organization is different, so be sure to find a supportive environment where you can learn from high quality professionals.” She also provides encouragement about the reality of working in ABA, “It’s a hard job, but so rewarding. The kids will surprise you and you will be so grateful to play a part in their growth.”

A bit more about Julie:

  • Favorite food: sushi
  • What music is usually playing on your iPod? anything from 90’s rap to classical to country – it depends on my mood or what I’m doing.
  • Favorite movie: Princess Bride and Pulp Fiction
  • How do you relax / de-stress outside of work? Honestly, I’m terrible at it with having 2 kids under the age of 3.
  • Coffee, tea or soda? Coffee every day all day!
  • Favorite book (either fiction or non-fiction): Bridge to Terabithia and The Outsiders

Does Julie’s story inspire you in your own career ambitions? Take a look at the Join Our Team page for more details on what it’s like to work here and get in touch with us about current opportunities.

An Unconventional Path to Becoming An ABA Therapist


An Unconventional Path to Becoming An ABA Therapist

Employee Spotlight: Meet ABA Therapist Jen

It’s the love of kids and the desire to serve that brought Jen from New Jersey to Detroit three years ago. She always worked with kids and while in college studying Criminal Justice, Jen realized she felt her dream of working in the FBI was not a fit personally.  However she felt called to serve in some way and while in college got involved in AmeriCorps.

After graduating from DeSales University Jen applied to work with the AmeriCorps City Year program. She received an assignment to serve in Detroit Public Schools working with middle school students providing behavior support and English Language Arts tutoring. The one year assignment got extended to two years. However, two years of working with a service organization also meant two years of making very little money to live off of. Jen transitioned to a large suburban public school district managing their before and after care program. This position allowed her to work with kids, but required very early days and working into the evening. The long days started to wear on her and she felt compelled to find a better fit.

A Personal Connection

One of Jen’s friends worked at Healing Haven as an ABA Therapist and recommended she check it out since she loved working with kids. So Jen applied and was hired in January 2018. She  says, “Working at Healing Haven has uncovered a passion I didn’t know I had! Getting to work with kids with autism is AMAZING! They are so cool!”

Jen is motivated to come to work because, “I get to be surprised every day by the kids. Seeing their growth in skills and what they’ve learned is a gift.” She is also very honest about the work, “It’s a hard job, and everyone knows it and supports you. This is one of the of most supportive environments I’ve ever worked in. My co-workers listen when it’s been hard. And we have a staff counselor to if we need to talk.”

Another aspect about the culture that Jen values is that the middle & upper management are accessible. She describes them as open to suggestions and change. She said she feels comfortable asking questions about anything – from policies and procedures to individual kids’ programs.

Witnessing Progress

One of Jen’s favorite experiences in her eight months at Healing Haven is the connection she made with one 3-year-old at the beginning of her employment. The client worked hard and made great strides in his PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) and then moved on to use touch-chat on an iPad to communicate. After several months of working with other kids, Jen came back to work with him and was so amazed at his progress. “His BCBA said we were paired perfectly, that he had a special connection with me. Seeing his progress and hearing that meant so much to me.”

When asked what her dream career would be Jen responded, “I like to be hands on working with kids rather than sitting at a desk writing reports.” She is thinking about the possibility of going to graduate school to become an Occupational Therapist. She recently cried in an O.T. session with a client witnessing the child’s growth over the past several months.

ABA Career Advice

Jen’s advice to anyone considering a career in Applied Behavior Analysis is to make sure you love kids. She reminds us that they are kids first and have autism second. “They really are more like us than you think!”

A bit more about Jen:

  • Favorite food: Mac & Cheese
  • What’s playing on your iPod? Podcasts “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” and “Aftereffect” are two most recent favorites.
  • Favorite Movie: Dirty Dancing
  • How do you relax/de-stress outside of work? Kayaking (I’m actually an instructor and I take people on tours along the Detroit River), exploring Detroit and playing board games.
  • Coffee, tea or soda? Coffee – on IV if I could!
  • Favorite book: Far From the Tree (which now is an award winning documentary)

Have you been considering a career in Applied Behavior Analysis? We hope Jen’s story encourages you to take the leap! Visit the Join Our Team page for more details on what it’s like to work here and get in touch with us about current opportunities.

From Roofing Salesman to Board Certified Behavior Analyst


From Roofing Salesman to Board Certified Behavior Analyst

Employee Spotlight: Meet BCBA Stephen

That’s not a typical path for a career as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). But that’s what makes up many people’s career progressions. Often there are chance opportunities and uncovering of gifts and passions to find your calling. No matter how your career starts, the end goal is to land in a place where you are fulfilled and making an impact.

Stephen’s non-typical path to BCBA is a great example. He took a break from school and was selling roofing for a contractor in Oklahoma. One day he realized, “I didn’t want to always be chasing the next storm. I needed to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life.”

Stephen had always had an interest in working with kids with special needs. The seed was planted when he was in middle school and he signed up to be a LINK – a peer mentor to a student with a disability. Stephen worked with a student with autism for an hour a day and realized he loved it! That spark lead to other encounters with children with special needs.

Pursuing A Career In ABA Therapy

That aha moment in Oklahoma led him to reach out to a friend who was a Board Certified Behavior Analyst to talk about her career. He moved back to Michigan and enrolled at Oakland University to pursue a degree in Psychology. Through his one ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) class he met Dr. Lori Warner who co-managed the Ted Lindsay Foundation HOPE Center at Beaumont Children’s with our founder Jamie McGillivary. He applied for the practicum position at the HOPE Center and started his career in ABA in 2013.

Healing Haven started to provide additional services outside of the HOPE Center’s program offerings. As Healing Haven’s programs grew, Jamie needed to focus her attention full-time on providing services to meet the demand. It was a natural transition for Stephen to move with Healing Haven at that time as an ABA therapist.

From Student to Therapist

Shortly after Healing Haven launched Stephen moved from ABA Therapist to Room Monitor. This position provides support and oversight to the ABA Therapists working one-on-one with the kids. Then he quickly moved into the Parent Training program, educating parents on ABA therapy techniques to use at home and out in the community.

While working here the past four years Stephen earned a Masters in Psychology and passed the exam becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in August 2017. (He did this while also becoming a Dad to two wonderful kids!) He describes Healing Haven as “a community of supportive staff who are invested and passionate about what they do.” Stephen added, “I have a Director who is both a mentor and who has a vision that she wants me to be a part of.”

A memorable moment from the past four years was when Stephen ran the Parent Training program. During the last session of training with a Mom and her child, Stephen was doing the final assessment to document any changes. The child pointed to a ball and said “ball” – it was his first word ever spoken! “To have a front row seat to moments like that is such a gift,” exclaimed Stephen.

When asked what his dream career is, Stephen responded, “I’m living it right now, and it continues to grow as the dream of this place grows.” He doesn’t feel like he just comes to work and punches a clock. “I love that I get to be part of a community that is so dedicated in what they do. They see the kids they serve as spectacular, even on tough days.”

ABA Career Advice

Stephen’s advice for someone considering a career in ABA therapy or as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst is to do your research. “Research where you want to learn and work. Make sure it’s at a company that has values in alignment with your own so your passion isn’t diminished. If you find the right environment this work is so incredibly rewarding!”

A bit more about Stephen:

  • Favorite food: BBQ
  • What radio station is on in your car? NPR never leaves my dial!
  • Favorite movie: Any kind of horror movie
  • How do you relax / de-stress outside of work? Spend time with my children
  • Coffee, tea or soda? Coffee
  • Favorite book (either fiction or non-fiction): The Dark Tower series by Stephen King

Does Stephen’s story inspire you in your own career ambitions? Take a look at the Join Our Team page for more details on what it’s like to work here and get in touch with us about current opportunities.