Licensing Requirements for Behavior Analysts in Missouri
In the old days, there was no requirement for anyone in Missouri who engaged in "behavior analysis" to be licensed. The Missouri state legislature, primarily citing the need for oversight of treatment of children with autism or certain behavioral disorders who might be served by those providing behavior analysis, passed House Bill 1311. This bill not only created the Missouri Behavior Analyst Advisory Board (the "Board"), it also established provisions regarding health insurance coverage for individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and implemented Missouri’s first licensing structure for behavior analysts and assistant behavior analysts. House Bill 1311 was passed into law and became effective on August 28, 2010. Prior to this law, Missouri did not regulate or license individuals in the practice of behavior analysis. Rather, behavior analysts and assistant behavior analysts could obtain national certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (“BACB”). This national certifying entity is recognized by Missouri’s Board and it serves as the primary criteria for licensing most behavior analysts and related individuals in this state.
Many individuals arguably utilize components of “applied behavior analysis.” Teachers may implement behavior strategies in their classrooms to correct problem students. Parents may use techniques of applied behavior analysis on their own children, or even those visiting for a sleepover. Such individuals are arguably not engaged in the “practice of applied behavior analysis” such that they are required to obtain licenses in Missouri. Rather, the legislative initiative was directed primarily toward children with autism and other related mental disabilities which require professional evaluation and treatment, with the goal of providing accountability on the part of providers and State oversight in the event that families or patients experienced difficulties.
So Just What is "Applied Behavior Analysis"?
RSMo. § 337.300 defines “applied behavior analysis” as follows:
(1) "Applied behavior analysis", the design, implementation, and evaluation of environmental modifications, using behavioral stimuli and consequences, to produce socially significant improvement in human behavior, including the use of direct observation, measurement, and functional analysis of the relationships between environment and behavior. Applied behavior analysis does not include cognitive therapies or psychological testing, personality assessment, intellectual assessment, neuropsychological assessment, psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, sex therapy, psychoanalysis, hypnotherapy, family therapy, and long-term counseling as treatment modalities.
In addition, the statute defines the “practice of applied behavior analysis” as:
. . . the application of the principles, methods, and procedures of the experimental analysis of behavior and applied behavior analysis (including principles of operant and respondent learning) to assess and improve socially important human behaviors. It includes, but is not limited to, applications of those principles, methods, and procedures to:
(a) The design, implementation, evaluation, and modification of treatment programs to change behavior of individuals;
(b) The design, implementation, evaluation, and modification of treatment programs to change behavior of groups; and
(c) Consultation to individual and organizations.
Who is Required to Have a License?
No person is supposed to practice applied behavior analysis in Missouri unless they are licensed through the Board under RSMo. § 337.315. There are several types of licenses available including Licensed Behavior Analyst ("LBA"), Licensed Assistant Behavior Analyst ("LaBA"), Provisionally Licensed Behavior Analyst ("PLBA), Provisionally Licensed Assistant Behavior Analyst ("PLABA"), Temporary Licensed Behavior Analyst ("TLBA"), and Temporary Licensed Assistant Behavior Analyst ("TLaBA"). Each requires certain levels of experience and training and requires that certain statutory prerequisites be met.
Note that there are exceptions to a license being required. An individual with a bachelor's or graduate degree and who has completed course work for licensure as a behavior analyst and is obtaining supervised field experience under an LBA pursuant to required supervised work experience for licensure at the LBA or LaBA level, need not be licensed. In other words, if such a person is supervised by an LBA in order to meet the requirements for national certification by the BACB, then they need not be licensed during that time.
In addition, licensed psychologists practicing within the rules and standards of practice in Missouri for psychologists, commensurate with their level of training and experience need not be licensed. See RSMo. § 337.315.7. Furthermore, any licensed or certified professional may practice components of applied behavioral analysis, as defined in RSMo. § 337.300, if he or she is acting within his or her applicable scope of practice and ethical guidelines.
There is a stick to whack those who violate the licensing requirements or aid others in doing so. RSMo. 337.335 provides that any person found guilty of violating any provision of sections 337.300 to 337.345 is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.
Just what Powers does the Behavior Analyst Advisory Board have Anyway?
The Board is an advisory Board, meaning it has absolutely no direct power to discipline those who violate Missouri's statute or any rules relating to applied behavior analysis. What it does do, however, is make recommendations to the State Committee of Psychologists. It is this state agency that actually has the authority to seek discipline against a licensee or to deny an application for licensure if the statutory requirements are not met. See RSMo. § 337.100. There's a catchy twist, however: the State Committee may not make a final decision on any licensing, complaint resolution or any other action bearing on the practice of applied behavior analysis until after the Board votes and makes its recommendation to the State Committee.
The requirements for a license from the Missouri Behavior Analyst Advisory Board can be somewhat complicated, especially with regard to a transition from an undergraduate or master's degree to provisional licensure as a PLBA or PLABA. In addition, the Advisory Board is a relatively new Board tasked with the difficult proposition of overseeing new licensees in Missouri where no license was previously required. If you are a licensed behavior analyst or assistant behavior analyst or if you have been certified by the BACB, and the Missouri Analyst Advisory Board is threatening discipline or legal action against you, our firm can help. Check out the Missouri Behavior Analyst Advisory Board website to gather information, and then give us a call if you need legal assistance.