Hello! This is my first post here and I'm looking for some feedback, advice, and your experience in the fields of behavior analysis and psychotherapy.
I have a career dilemma. Long time ago I got a BS in Animal Bio, then became interested in Psych and behavior. Now I have been working as an RBT (registered behavior technician) for 4 years with children on autism spectrum, and provide in-home services related to problem behaviors, and debating whether I should get a masters in applied behavior analysis (ABA) or get a masters/PsyD and practice as a therapist. ABA is a fast growing and changing field right now, and supposed to pay better than an MFT/MSW for example. I am extremely conflict avoidant, and don't enjoy crisis situations, although I have become more or less accustomed to them, working with kids with autism and at a group home with troubled youth. While I understand all jobs have ups and downs, to be blunt, I want an "easy" job. I like the job of the LPC I see at the daycare who walks around and establishes rapport with kids, and counsels them on as needed basis. She does not do crisis intervention, or discipline them in anyway. I also LOVE the idea of working as a therapist and doing play therapy with kids, who come to my office, so I don't have to make house calls (and deal with the sometimes unstable home environment). The downside of that is that I won't know if the job of a therapist is really for me until I have the actual degree. The therapists that I've interviewed or have seen sometimes seem really burnt out. I don't want an MFT because the couples fighting can get pretty intense. I want to get an MA in Mental Health, but worried about state-to-state licensure, since I do not know where I will live yet (I currently live in Hawaii, but my husband is applying to jobs out of state, so we're not planning to stay here forever).
I have a love-hate relationship with the ABA field (applied behavior analysis) because it is akin to animal training, and while effective, I feel it lacks emphasis on empathy and making a connection with the child (sort of what Dr. Laura Markham's blog ahaparenting.com talks about), but I feel it would be unethical for me to suggest this to clients, because it's not really ABA. To me ABA seems that it's lacking depth and is too robotic with it's reinforcement principles and constricted with its application in autism (supposedly it has other applications, but it's really rare to find a job outside of the autism diagnosis). I also don't like the possibility of injury - kids have hit, bit, spat, and swore at me, they may be teenagers and bigger than me - I am a 5'2 female with history of domestic violence, so this scares me. I can't tell you how many times I've come home crying because of these aggressive behaviors I've had to deal with, and I'd blame myself, there's little support within the profession, and it's just a very difficult job. I've had a PsyD therapist tell me my job is so much harder than hers.
What I love about ABA is the one-on-one relationship I get to build with my client. I also love working with kids, especially younger ones, making that connection with them, being their coach, seeing them grow and overcome challenges with my help is SO rewarding. I'm also good at this job, I feel like I have a knack for it (I've had supervisors tell me this), and it is an in-demand field.
SO I've been sitting on this dilemma for a year or two now, and feel a lot of pressure to make a decision already, I am 29 years old, and desperately wanting to to be financially independent and get on with my life with a permanent job, that I only see for myself after grad school.
I know this was long, sorry about that. Really appreciate any help you may have, and feel free to ask questions.