Eastern Michigan University Interview

We recognized Eastern Michigan University among the 20 Best Schools Offering Applied Behavior Analyst Master’s Programs and for offering one of the 35 Best ABA Graduate Programs (Master’s and Doctorate), adding them to our list of top recommendations for ABA grad students.

We were excited to hear from Adam M. Briggs, Ph.D., BCBA-D & Thomas J. Waltz, Ph.D., Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, faculty members at Eastern Michigan University who took the time to answer a few questions about how the school works to create a great student experience that helps prepare graduates for a career in applied behavior analysis.

Eastern Michigan University Programs:

  • Clinical Behavioral MS in Psychology Program
  • PhD in Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis

Professor/Faculty Name:      Adam M. Briggs, Ph.D., BCBA-D & Thomas J. Waltz, Ph.D., Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist

Tell us about the types of students you see come through your program. Are you seeing more non-traditional students and career changers coming from other fields?

The majority of students are traditional or a small extension from traditional (ages 22-28, some with a masters degree, some with previous clinical or research experience).

What areas of practice are you seeing graduates going into? Do they tend to find jobs in the local school districts or more often join private practices?

Our three most recent behavior-analytic focused doc students are on post doc. One at brain injury rehabilitation at NYU, the other is at Stanford Medicine focusing on kids on the spectrum, and the third at the feeding disorders clinic at University of Michigan. Our students are more likely to be in hospital-based or outpatient care (private practice or part of a larger care network) settings rather than schools even though they may do some school-based consultation.

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What are some of the things you love most about the ABA program at your university – the kind of things you’d like future students to know about as they consider their options?

  • Our students receive broad foundational training in behavior analysis that prepares them to practice (or conduct research) in diverse areas. This freedom also places great responsibility on the student for carrying that training forward and learning to be flexible in applying a functional analytic account to diverse areas of practice.
  • This includes access to faculty with diverse interests in behavior analysis:
    • Behavioral assessment and interventions at the intersection of chronic medical conditions and psychological problems
    • Application of behavior analysis to assess cognitive losses and to develop interventions
    • Prevention and reduction of emotional and behavioral changes commonly associated with neurological conditions
    • Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) with children diagnosed with autism
    • Assessment and treatment of severe behavior disorders

What do you feel are the most pressing issues in ABA today, and how does the program at your school prepare graduates to address these issues?

  • If behavior analysis becomes synonymous with autism treatment and nothing else, then the misperceptions of BA being relevant to very few problems gets reinforced. The BACB and APBA advocacy efforts have pushed the BCBA credential into a corner. Expanding the influence of BA in clinical psychology programs should be a high priority for BA having a large scope of practice.
  • Therefore, we encourage students to study the impact of behavior analysis in areas of practice outside of autism
  • This approach teaches students to consider other behavior-based, functional analytic accounts and perspectives toward assessment and treatment which also prepares students to work within multidisciplinary teams

Students in the PhD in Clinical Psychology—ABA emphasis program undergo practicum training at the university’s in-house Psychology Clinic. What kinds of training exercises do students typically engage in here?

  • Individual and group therapy.
  • Standardized and functional assessment.
  • The experiences vary based on supervisor availability and client flow.

The PhD program also offers extensive research training using the mentorship model. How exactly does the mentorship model work?

The fellowship mentor provides training and guides the student in developing their own research plans for master’s thesis and dissertation work. Students can expect that their mentor will have weekly contact with them particularly during their first two years in the program. Students assigned to non-clinical faculty seek out additional mentoring from clinical faculty or clinical supervisors related to their clinical training. Students are matched with a faculty mentor based on research interests upon admission and ideally the student will stay with their mentor throughout their academic career. However, students may request a change in mentor as they matriculate through the program. We encourage students to stay with a mentor for a minimum of two years to provide continuity in the training program.

Please feel free to add anything else you would like potential students to know about your program; things that would be good for them to consider before choosing a program.

EMU has a generous predoctoral fellowship that provides motivated students the opportunity to really build a tailored career. The faculty have broad training, are flexible thinkers, and will encourage trainees to follow a similar path.

Check out our full interview series here to see what other professors and faculty are saying about their ABA programs.

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