Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


38th Annual Convention; Seattle, WA; 2012

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #362
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

The Profession of Applied Behavior Analysis: What We Are and What We Are Not

Monday, May 28, 2012
2:00 PM–2:50 PM
303/304 (TCC)
Area: PRA; Domain: Service Delivery
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: Michael F. Dorsey, Ph.D.
Chair: John Scibak (Massachusetts House of Representatives)
MICHAEL F. DORSEY (Endicott College)
Michael F. Dorsey is a Licensed Psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Dr. Dorsey is a Professor of Education and Director of the Institute for Behavioral Studies at Endicott College and the Director of Clinical Services, the Vinfen Corporation, Cambridge, MA. Dr. Dorsey attended Western Michigan University, earning his Ph.D. in 1979. Dr. Dorsey has been active in ABAI from the earliest days, having served as a student member of the MABA Program Committee, and as a member of the ABAI Accreditation Committee and Practice Board. Dr. Dorsey has authored many professional publications, including assisting in the initial development of the Functional Analysis methodology. Dr. Dorsey has devoted much of his time to consumer advocacy, having been a Gubernatorial appointee to the Developmental Disabilities Councils of both Florida and Massachusetts, chairing the Massachusetts MDDC Governmental Affairs Committee for over six years, serving as a US representative to the First Papal Congress on Developmental Disabilities, and advocating/testifying at both the federal and state level concerning proposed legislation, policies and budgets effecting persons with disabilities. Dr. Dorsey is a registered Lobbyist in Massachusetts, where he has co-authored several bills related to the protection of ABA consumers and the practice of Behavior Analysis.

The profession of Applied Behavior Analysis is currently the subject of an unwarranted hostile take-over by both organizations and individuals representing the profession of psychology. Recent actions of the American Psychological Association (APA), along with those of numerous state APA affiliated chapters, suggest that they have identified a need to lay claim to the field of applied behavior analysis, which they claim is unique to the profession of psychology. These actions by APA are correlated with the recent rise in popularity of behavior analytic treatment techniques, especially with children diagnosed with autism. Given the recent reduction in fee structure of Psychologists for more typical "psychological services" by many of the major members of the insurance industry, their demands to require that those practicing applied behavior analysis work under the supervision of a psychologist appear to be 'guild' in nature, motivated by concerns related to the financial implications for Psychologists. This has been exacerbated over the past few years with the number of states that have passed not only behavior analyst licensing bills, but also autism insurance mandates that require providers of ABA services to be Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs). The paper will review the history of the development of the field of behavior analysis in relation to that of psychology, specifically noting factors that support the hypothesis that behavior analysis is an independent and unique profession that should not be assumed to be subordinate to Psychology. Data supporting this hypothesis will be presented, along with a review of the changes in the relationship between the professions of Psychology and Behavior Analysis over the past 20 years in which the members of the profession of psychology has distanced itself from behavior analysis. Additionally, the paper will attempt to respond to many of the criticisms raised by members of the profession of psychology concerning the inadequate training of applied behavior analysis to serve as independent practitioners. Finally, the negative impact on both consumers as well as the insurance industry, if such a take-over is successful, will be reviewed.

Target Audience:

Clinical psychologists, BCBAs, practitioners, administrators, students

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of this session, participants should be able to:
  • Identify the stance that the American Psychological Association has had in payment for ABA services and how it is at odds with ABAI.
  • Describe the history that the field of psychology has had in relation to Behavior Analysis and how it is now an independent and unique profession that should not be subsumed under the field of psychology.
Keyword(s): autism, financial, licensing, professional issue



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