Take Off Your Darn Shoes! Etiquette for Behavior Therapists in Homes


The idea of taking that first step into a stranger’s home may leave you with a bit of a pit in your stomach, especially as a new Behavior Therapist. Not only is there self-imposed pressure to execute programs accurately and to create a positive relationship with your new client, but doing so in the presence of that client’s parents can generate more undue pressure. How can you create a situation to create a bit of trust between yourself and the family? The answer is easier than you think: etiquette! You don’t need to be a Peter or Emily Post in order to execute some effective etiquette, either. Check out these 3 tips for Behavior Therapists in creating a great work environment through etiquette.

1. Establish ground rules during your first visit.
Imagine someone was entering your home for the first time, and would be visiting twice a week for the foreseeable future. What would you want to tell that person? Those are the questions you should be asking your families upon first meeting. Would you like me to take my shoes off? Would you like me to enter the front or side door? Would you prefer me to knock or ring the bell? Little questions like that not only show that you care; they also show that you take being there seriously!

2. Look at your programs, and ask questions accordingly.
Every kiddo receiving ABA therapy is different. Some need assistance toileting, some have edibles as reinforcers, and some have toys scattered across the entire home that the client is always manding for. Make sure that the parent is comfortable with you moving around their house in order to run the programs you have to. If there is a toileting program, find out which bathroom the parent wants you to use, and if they are comfortable with you going upstairs to retrieve the diapers or a change of clothes. If you need to grab a snack or meal for the client, make sure it’s okay for the child to have that snack and be sure to ask the parent if they are comfortable with you getting snacks out of their cupboard. Like establishing ground rules, think of how you would feel in the parents’ place, and establish your boundaries from there!

3. Keep it up!
Even as you settle into the ground rules, stay mindful that you are in someone else’s home. It’s great that you have made the family and yourself comfortable with your presence, but a misstep can ruin trust. The family may have been okay with you getting a waffle from the kitchen, but that doesn’t mean they are okay with you going upstairs with their child. Whenever a new situation presents itself that finds you in the slippery slope of etiquette, view it as an opportunity to establish mutual understanding. Keep asking questions, keep making a mental etiquette rule book, and make yourself and the family comfy and happy!


Vinny Vassallo is the Assistant Operations Manager and Intake Coordinator at ABACS, LLC. Prior to his administrative work with ABACS, Vinny worked as a Behavior Therapist.

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