How to Become an Applied Behavior Analyst in Rhode Island

Rhode Island is an old hand at licensing behavior analysts, having begun issuing licenses in 2012, earlier than many other states. The path to a formal licensing process came on the heels of a 2010 law (H 5275 Sub A) that was passed requiring insurance companies to cover treatments related to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnoses.

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The law included a provision requiring providers of applied behavior analysis services to be licensed, but there was no provision included for actually issuing those licenses. This left both ABAs (Applied Behavior Analysts) and many of their patients adrift until the legislature convened again in 2012 to pass SB 2559.

SB 2559 created a 5-member Applied Behavior Analyst Licensing Board (ABALB) and set down the legal standards for licensing two categories of professionals:

  • Applied Behavior Analysts – Licensed Behavior Analysts (LBA)
  • Assistant Applied Behavior Analysts – Licensed Assistant Behavior Analysts (LABA)

All licensed behavior analyst professionals in Rhode Island are subject to Applied Behavior Analyst Licensing Board (ABALB) oversight, but the law provides two paths to licensure:

  • Become a licensed ABA via a master’s degree in behavior analysis or closely related field, followed by meeting experience and testing requirements

OR

  • Become licensed as a psychologist via a doctorate in psychology, with additional coursework in behavior analysis and related experience requirements

LABAs are required to have only a bachelor’s degree and meet testing and experience requirements.

Many LBAs and LABAs choosing the first seek to attain a certification from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, a national non-profit established to set standards in the field and offer certification services to professionals. The BCBA® (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) and BCaBA® (Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst) certifications are acceptable in lieu of the specific education, testing, and experience requirements outlined in state law, though they are not expressly required for licensure in Rhode Island.

For more detailed information about the process of becoming BCBA®-certified, see the following page:

Click here for step-by-step instructions on the BCBA® credentialing process.

Steps To Becoming a Licensed Applied Behavior Analyst in Rhode Island

Choose a Path to Licensure

  • Via BACB Certification
  • Via Psychologist qualification
Qualify for a Certification in Behavior Analysis
Take the National Behavior Analyst Exam
Apply with ABALB For Your License


Step 1. Choose a Path to Licensure

Option A. By Obtaining BACB Certification

In order to receive a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®) certification, you will first have to earn a master’s degree or higher. The degree program has to meet the BACB’s acceptable degree definitions and meet BACB’s curriculum requirements. Examples include master’s or doctoral programs in behavior analysis, or in psychology or education with a minor or emphasis in behavior analysis.

Programs on the Association for Behavior Analysis International’s (ABAI) accredited program list offer the assurance of meeting curriculum requirements by including a BACB-approved course sequence.

It is still possible to receive a BCBA® even if you have not followed an approved course sequence, as long as you have matriculated from an institution that offered a qualifying degree and the correct course content allocation requirements. In that case, the BACB will have to evaluate the curriculum in order to ensure it meets board requirements before you will be allowed to take the BCBA® Exam.

Many students today opt for online master’s programs, which allow more flexibility and, frequently, lower costs than traditional options. For students who do not already live near their first choice in colleges with the requisite degree programs, or who may not live within commuting distance of any satisfactory options at all, an online master’s degree may be the only reasonable choice that doesn’t require relocating.

Requirements for Applied Assistant Behavior Analysts (AABA)

AABA’s will only have to earn a bachelor’s degree. Accreditation of the school and BACB-approved courses are still mandatory.

Option B. By Becoming a Licensed Psychologist

The path involves earning a doctorate in psychology from a college accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, or from an institution accredited by an equivalent regional authority. You can find a list of these regional authorities on the website of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Either as a part of that degree program or as part of a graduate certificate program, you will still need complete coursework specific to applied behavior analysis. The courses must be offered by an institution recognized by the United States Department of Education, or one recognized as substantially equivalent by the board.

You can find more information about the steps required to earn your psychologist’s license on the Department of Health Psychology Licensing website.


Step 2. Complete a Period of Supervised Practice

Either as a part of the master’s program you take or as independent work in the field, you will have to undergo a period of supervised practice with patients in order to qualify for an LBA or LABA license in Rhode Island.

The experience standards set by the board are:

  • 1500 hours of supervised independent fieldwork (1000 hours for AABAs)

OR

  • 1000 hours of practicum (670 hours for AABAs)

OR

  • 750 hours of intensive practicum (500 hours for AABAs)

Supervised independent fieldwork is performed after completing your master’s program, in an outside clinic or practice. You must perform at least 10 hours per week, but not more than 30 hours, and for a minimum of three weeks each month until sufficient hours have been accumulated.

You will generally have to line up your own fieldwork site, often at a functioning private practice that employs ABAs. Some example in Rhode Island include:

  • Bay Coast Behavioral, New Bedford
  • Northeast Behavior Associates, New Bedford
  • Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center, Coventry
  • Momentum, East Greenwich

Practicum is conducted as a part of your master’s program, usually as an enrolled course for which you will receive credit hours. Intensive practicum has the same standards, but sets a higher ratio of contacts and supervisory oversight. The hourly requirements are similar except that the maximum weekly hours are 25 in each of these categories.

Alternatively, you will be counted as having met the experience requirements for licensing if you hold a BCBA® or BCaBA®.

If you are taking the licensed psychologist path to becoming an LBA, the experience requirements are less stringent. You must spend 1500 hours in direct client contact, performing applied behavior analysis services, after earning your psychology degree. However, the board also has leeway to accept alternatives on a case-by-case basis.


Step 3. Pass a National Applied Behavior Analyst Exam

After attaining your master’s degree and fulfilling all the necessary experience requirements, you will be eligible to take the National Behavior Analyst Exam from the BACB. The exam is administered by Pearson VUE and offered in exam centers around the nation.

The only available testing center in Rhode Island is in Warwick.

To take the test, you must first register online with the BACB. You will have to provide the necessary paperwork to verify that you have completed the educational and experience requirements for the BCBA® before you will be allowed to sit the exam.

If you are a licensed psychologist, you will not be required to take this test, but you will have taken and passed the national Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP) as required for psychologist credentialing.


Step 4. Apply with ABALB For Your License

Regardless if which path to licensure you selected, you will have to file an application from the ABALB website and pay a non-refundable, $150 application fee. The application must be notarized and include a recently completed (within the past 6 months) criminal background check from the Rhode Island Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

If you have ever been licensed in a jurisdiction outside of Rhode Island as a behavior analyst, you will have to provide information about that license and send a verification form to the licensing authority to confirm that it is in good standing.

If you chose the BCBA® or BCaBA® path to certification, you will also have to provide verification of your BCBA® certificate along with your application.

If you are coming in as a currently licensed psychologist, you will have to provide a copy of your current Rhode Island psychology license. You must also document your educational background, providing a curriculum summary that demonstrates you have met the required coursework standards specific to behavior analysis as part of your degree or a graduate certificate acquired subsequent to graduation.

You will also have to have copies of your school transcripts sent to the board for review.

Temporary and Reciprocal Licensing

ABALB offers temporary waivers of its licensing requirements for ABAs who are licensed or certified by other states who will be practicing in the state for less than ten days per year, with less than five of those being consecutive. This allows practitioners who are brought in on a consulting basis, or who are temporarily working with relocating patients, to provide services without becoming licensed.

The state also offers reciprocal licensing to ABAs and AABAs who have achieved certification or licensing in other jurisdictions, and who have a current BCBA® or BCaBA® certification. The licensing requirements from the reciprocated jurisdiction must be, in the judgement of the board, substantially similar to those of Rhode Island.

License Renewal

Licenses expire in even number years on June 30 for all licensed ABAs in Rhode Island. Renewal applications are due by June 1st. The department will notify you at least 30 days prior to the renewal due date by mailing an application form, together with information about the fee due that year.

If you fail to renew the license within ninety days of expiration, the license will lapse and you must reapply for a new license.

ABALB has adopted the continuing education requirements used by the BACB on a 2-year cycle, which call for:

  • BCBA® – 32 continuing education units (at least 4 in ethics, and 3 in supervision for any BCBA® acting as a supervisor)
  • BCaBA® – 20 continuing education units (at least 4 in ethics, and 3 in supervision for any BCaBA® acting as a supervisor)

There are seven types of continuing education accepted, some of which have limitations on what percentage of the total required units they can fulfill:

  • College or university coursework – no limit
  • Credits issued by approved continuing education providers – no limit
  • Non-approved events – 25 percent
  • Instruction of college courses or approved continuing education courses – 50 percent
  • Credit issued by the BACB directly – 25 percent
  • Re-taking and passing the certification exam – no limit
  • Scholarly activities – 25 percent

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