Practitioner Success Story: Katie Costa

Practitioner Success Story: Katie Costa

An Interview with Katie Costa

Increasingly, behavior analysts are beginning to practice in the areas of health, sports, and fitness. Navigating the journey to careers in these areas may be difficult. To highlight those who have been successful and who want to help up and coming practitioners, we are launching a series where professionals practicing in health, sports, and/or fitness share their stories.

Our third success story highlights the path of Katie Costa, BCBA, NBC-HWC (National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach). Katie has always been passionate about health and fitness, and felt the need to explore other options outside the world of behavior analysis. After 15 years of working as a traditional BCBA, Katie decided to take a career leap into health and wellness coaching. Katie has been successful integrating her true passion of health and wellness with the knowledge she learned in psychology and behavior analytics. Katie has generously answered our questions below, walking us through her own career journey.

Q: How did you begin your practice in behavior analysis?

KC: When I decided to pursue my BCBA, I was working as a school psychologist in a center-based program for preschoolers with developmental disabilities (including Autism). I wanted to help improve the quality of instruction with evidence-based practice for this population of children. After attending an early intervention ABA-focused workshop, I was immediately hooked and began my BCBA journey!

Q: How did you begin your practice in health, sport, and fitness?

KC: After working in the school-setting for almost 15 years, I decided I wanted to create a new career trajectory for myself and pursue my passion of health and wellness. I was initially going to try to venture out on my own as a BCBA after attending several HSF-related workshops and CE events until I discovered health and wellness coaching and fell in love with this field. I found it was an excellent way to apply my psychology and behavior analytic background toward health and wellness.

Q. What, if any, additional education and experience did you acquire?

KC: I attended the Vanderbilt Health Coaching Program and sat for the National Board Exam to become a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC).

Q: What barriers did you overcome when starting your practice?

KC: Since beginning my practice, marketing and finding a referral source have been the biggest barrier. I am still working through this barrier and believe one of the challenges is finding a narrow enough niche to target. This is incredibly important in a business and translates to more referral pathways.

Q: What have been your three largest successes?

KC: My first success was having the courage to step out of my comfort zone to choose a new pathway. I've gained tremendous confidence from this experience. My second success was establishing my business. My goal is to continue learning how to integrate behavior analysis with health coaching, and I'm grateful for the growing HSF ABA field! My third success comes from the contracting work I do outside of my business. I hold various contracting roles primarily in managing, training and/or mentoring other health coaches. I enjoy being part of shaping new health coaches in this growing field!

Q: What advice would you give someone looking to begin or move into practicing within health, sport, and fitness?

KC: I suggest getting an additional credential as this can open up opportunities and helps to develop expertise in a specific area of practice. For those wanting to pursue health coaching and desire opportunities outside of your own business, I suggest attending a NBHWC-approved training program. This organization has created a standard and best practices for the field. In addition, more employers are requiring this credential and insurance is expected to reimburse for health coaches with the NBC-HWC credential in the coming months/year(s).

Disclaimer: This is a personal success story. Any views or opinions represented in this story are personal and belong solely to the professional interviewed and do not represent those of the Behavior Analysis in Health, Sport and Fitness Special Interest Group or its affiliates.  Any certifications listed were acquired by the professionals due to personal choices based on their career path and goals and do not represent requirements for pursuing a career in Health, Sport and Fitness.  All readers are encouraged to review credentialing requirements for their career path of choice.

Are you considering re-specializing or expanding your scope of practice? While there isn't one set path or process for re-specialization of one's scope of practice, the BACB website has a great webpage, About Behavior Analysis, with helpful resources. The webpage has videos and one-page fact sheets related to ABA in health and fitness & ABA in Sports, in addition to a guide for Recommendations for Respecialization.

Want to share your own story? The HSF Professional Development Committee has set up a form to collect stories from behavior analysts who have had success practicing in the areas of health, sport, and fitness. We look forward to hearing from you!

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