How to Become an Applied Behavior Analyst in Michigan

The state of Michigan does not offer licensure specifically for applied behavior analysts (ABAs) or assistant applied behavior analysts (AABAs). Instead, under the Michigan Public Health Code Act 368 of 1978, all practitioners of behavior analysis are technically required to obtain psychology licenses under existing rules for psychologists.

There Act defines the practice of psychology in such a way that all services rendered to treat mental or emotional disorders or disabilities using behavior adjustment or modification, or through any behavioral means, falls under the authority of a psychologist license. In accordance with the law, unlicensed practitioners are barred from providing such services.

The Association of Professional Behavior Analysts also states that a psychology license is required to practice behavior analysis in Michigan.

A bill introduced in 2013, Senate Bill 0655, aimed to clarify matters and establish a separate state-level credential for ABAs and AABAs. The bill passed the Senate overwhelmingly, but died in committee after going to the House.

As it stands, many behavior analysts practice in Michigan without holding a psychologist license. However, almost all practicing ABAs in the state hold one of the two nationally recognized certifications from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB):

It is worth noting that BACB certification would fulfill ABA licensing requirements as proposed under Senate Bill 0655. Should a similar bill pass, it is likely to include the same provision to align with national standards.

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

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) advises prospective ABAs to contact them at the following address to make a formal scope of practice inquiry to determine if a psychologist license would be required: [email protected]

As an unbiased resource not affiliated with either LARA or the BACB, we offer instructions on the complete psychologist licensing process through the Michigan Board of Psychology with respect to how current licensing laws read.

Steps To Becoming a Licensed Psychologist in Michigan Authorized to Provide ABA Services

Earn a Doctoral Degree in Psychology
Complete an Internship Program
Complete a Period of Supervised Practice
Pass a Standard National Examination on Psychology
Apply for a License with the Board of Psychology

Step 1. Earn a Doctoral Degree in Psychology

Michigan requires licensed psychologists to possess a doctoral degree in psychology from a properly accredited university. Acceptable accreditation is offered via the following bodies:

  • The American Psychological Association
  • The Canadian Psychological Association
  • The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) and National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology, via their National Register designation

Meeting Education Requirements for a Psychology License and Certification through the BACB

While a doctorate in psychology is the minimum requirement for licensing, practitioners who intend to offer behavior analysis services should be sure to complete coursework specific to the field of applied behavior analysis. ABA courses are often offered as part of standard curriculum and as electives in many psychology doctorate programs that meet state licensing requirements.

All doctoral degree programs in psychology, accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) include a BCBA® pre-verified course sequence as part of the curriculum. Alternately, any program related to the field of Psychology can be assessed by the BACB to determine if it includes the qualifying Course Content Allocation.

The Verified Course Sequence (VCS) is also offered as a stand-alone post-graduate VCS courses independent of their graduate program curriculum specifically designed for those that already hold a graduate degree but still need to complete the ABA course requirements necessary to qualify to take the BCBA® Exam.

Graduates from overseas psychology doctorate programs can appeal to the board on a case by case basis to have their program accepted as qualifying. The board relies on the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) to evaluate programs as having substantial equivalency to American standards; it may, at its discretion, accept degrees offered by such programs.

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Step 2. Complete an Internship Program

Either as part of your doctoral program or, at the board’s discretion, in an appropriate postdoctoral experience, you will have to complete an internship in psychology.

Both paid and unpaid internships are available, and both full-time and part-time opportunities exist to fit your schedule.

Most psychology doctoral programs maintain a website or dedicated internships office to assist students in finding opportunities. For example, this website is provided by the University of Michigan for psychology students looking for internships.

During your internship you will typically work directly with clients under the supervision of a practicing psychologist, administering tests or providing consultation. Your supervisor may assign research or other tasks to further your study of the field while you are in your internship.

Step 3. Complete a Period of Supervised Practice

After you receive your doctorate, you will have to enter a period of supervised practice, working with actual patients in a clinical setting under the direction of a senior, licensed psychologist.

You will have to accumulate a total of 2,000 hours of practice within a two-year period before you can apply for your psychologist’s license. However, if you are undertaking the supervised training in Michigan, you will have to apply for and receive a Doctoral Limited License in psychology in order to deliver such services, even under supervision.

You may work full or part time during your supervised practice period, but you will have to have at least four hours of face-to-face meeting time with your supervising psychologist each month.

Step 4. Pass a Standard National Examination on Psychology

After you have graduated with your doctorate degree and accumulated the required hands-on practice in the field, you will have to take and pass the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP) exam

The EPPP is administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. You can apply to take the test online here once you have filed your initial application with the NDSBPE and been approved to proceed with the examination process.

The exam is administered by Pearson VUE and offered in exam centers around the nation.

There are a wide variety of exam centers to choose from in Michigan:

  • Ann Arbor
  • Grand Rapids
  • Lansing
  • Marquette
  • Southfield
  • Troy

You will have to receive a minimum score of 500 on the exam to be considered eligible for a license in Michigan.

Step 5. Apply for a License with the Board of Psychology

If you completed your supervised practice in Michigan, then you have already made an application to the Board of Psychology to receive your limited license. After passing the EPPP, however, all applicants will have to file with LARA for a psychologist’s license.

A license application form can be downloaded from the LARA website here. The license fee is $151.50, payable at time of application.

The application must include:

  • Official transcripts and educational certifications
  • Proof of completion of internship experience, if postdoctoral
  • Proof of supervised practice hours
  • EPPP results

If you already have a limited license, you do not need to resubmit your education and internship information, only the exam results and evidence of completion of supervised practice.

If your educational experience was not conducted in English, the board may also require that you take and pass the Test Of English as Foreign Language iBT examination from the Educational Testing Service. This online test scores your English skills relative to a university level. You will have to receive a score of 80 or better to pass.

After filing your application, you will also be emailed instructions on how to undergo a criminal background check, which will also be required to be completed before your license can be issued.

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Reciprocal Licensing for Psychologists in Michigan

If you already possess a license as a practicing psychologist in another state, you may be eligible to receive a license by endorsement. If the board decides that the standard of qualification in the state where you are currently licensed is substantially equivalent to that in Michigan, you have the option to apply for a Michigan license without additional testing or supervised practice.

In order to be eligible, you must have been licensed for at least 10 years in the state you are coming from. You must also hold a current Certificate of Professional Qualification in Psychology (CPQ) issued by the ASPPB, or hold a current health service provider credential issued by the National Register of Health Service Psychologists.

You will still have to pay the required $151.50 application fee and file the same application form. Your original license will have to be verified and you will have to undergo the required Michigan criminal background check.

License Renewal for Psychologists in Michigan

Licenses are generally good for two years but a fixed expiration date means that the first renewal date for your initial licensing period may arrive in as few as four months.

The board will email renewal notices between 45 and 60 days before renewal is due, informing you as to the current renewal fee at that time. You can renew online with a credit card at the LARA E-license website here.

After your first renewal period, you will also be required to accumulate 30 hours of continuing education in every two-year license period. At least three hours of that must cover ethics, and two hours must be devoted to pain and symptom management.

The board considers the following activities as acceptable for acquiring the required continuing education credits:

  • Attendance at a program or activity officially sponsored by a recognized American psychology association
  • Passing a postgraduate academic course related to psychology
  • Presenting a continuing education program
  • Presenting a scientific paper, exhibit, or clinical demonstration to a psychological organization
  • Publication of a psychology article or chapter in a peer-reviewed textbook
  • Publication of a book related to psychology practice
  • Research into clinical or professional practice
  • Participation on a state or national committee, board, council, or association related to the practice of psychology
  • Participation as a student in a postdoctoral clinical training program
  • Acting as a surveyor for the accreditation or certification of a psychology program
  • Participating on a peer-review committee
  • Serving as a psychology instructor
  • Providing clinical supervision for master’s, doctoral, or postdoctoral students

Alternative continuing education activities may be presented to the board for recognition.

If you fail to renew your license on time, but choose to renew it within three years of expiration, the board may choose to allow you to do so with a $171.50 fee and an explanation of the reasons you failed to renew on time. If you allow the license to lapse for more than three years, you must reapply and undergo the licensing process entirely from start to finish.

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