By Kristen Linsalata
Assistant News Editor
The Psychology Department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is now offering a 36-credit Masters of Arts degree in Behavior Analysis, beginning in the 2014-2015 academic year. “Behavior Analysis is a technique within Psychology for designing interventions for various types of behavioral changes,” said Nancy Frye, Psychology professor and graduate director of the Psychology department. “For instance, Behavior Analysis is the preferred technique for helping children with autism. Behavior Analysis can be used to help foster children›s social behaviors, and to also help minimize problematic behaviors. Because of this, there are likely to be numerous job opportunities within the field of Behavior Analysis.”
“We have been trying to expand Behavior Analysis so that it deals with a lot of things other than autism. The idea is to try to broaden the field so that it [does] not only deal with people with developmental disabilities,” said Gerald Lachter, Psychology professor and Chairperson of the Psychology department, who is also a licensed behavior analyst in New York.
The addition of a master’s degree in Behavioral Analysis was a natural extension of an already existing certificate program in Behavioral Analysis in the Psychology Department, according to Lachter. “For about 12 years, we have had an advanced certificate program, which is an 18-credit program to train individuals to do applied Behavior Analysis. The courses that make up the certificate program also carry over into the master’s program,” Lachter added. The Behavior Analysis M.A. requires 18 credits beyond those required for the advanced certificate. Additional courses, such as Behavioral Assessment and Advanced Issues in Applied Behavior, have been added to the curriculum.
This past summer, New York passed a law that allows people to obtain licenses in Behavior Analysis, which will likely increase the job opportunities. “Behavior Analysis can be used to help foster children’s social behaviors, and also to help minimize problematic behaviors,” Frye said. “Because of this, there are likely to be numerous job opportunities within the field of Behavior Analysis.”
“If you complete this program and you pass a national certification exam, you can then become licensed as a behavior analyst in New York, which means that you can do in-home work, you can work with agencies, you can do private practice work, just to name a few,” Lachter said. “In order to take the certification exam, students need to obtain supervised, clinical experience in Behavior Analysis.”
Many students obtain supervised, clinical experience in settings where individuals are developmentally disabled – more specifically, with autistic children. “There are a lot of agencies on Long Island and in New York State,” Lachter continued. “There are usually no difficulties in finding appropriate placement for students.”
Acquiring the proper training and experience on the graduate level will allow you to serve a population of people that truly need it. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are on the rise, affecting children in unprecedented numbers, according to New York State’s Office for Developmental Disabilities. However, there aren’t enough people who are trained to provide the services that are of crucial importance to their development.
“The goal [of implementing this M.A. program] is to provide the kind of training that people need to serve the population of children who are on the autism spectrum. We want to train as many individuals that we can that are qualified because there really aren’t enough well trained people in the field.
There are only a small number of behavior analysts in New York State, probably between 400 and 500. Yet, there are 17,000 children who are on the autism spectrum,” Lachter said.
The Psychology Department plans to implement other new programs in the future, according to Frye. “The Psychology department is working on some five year degree plans, through which students could earn a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in five years,” she said. “We are currently working on five year programs that could lead to a Master’s in Behavior Analysis, and we are working with Mental Health Counseling on a five year program that would lead to a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling.”
“I’m happy to see the Psychology department is expanding,” said Catherine Bihun, a junior Psychology major. “The Psychology professors at Post know their stuff, so I think they can do a lot with the program. However, I hope that the Psychology department implements more interning and volunteer opportunities on the undergraduate level, as well.”
To learn more about an M.A. in Behavior Analysis, contact Nancy Frye, the graduate director of the Psychology department, or Gerald Lachter, the chairperson of the Psychology department at (516) 299- 2184.