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What is the Difference Between a BCBA and an LBA?

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Political Intrigue Inhibiting Behavior Analysts

“What is the difference between a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and a Licensed Behavior Analyst? (LBA)” is a question that gained relevance during the last decade. As the recognition of the importance of Behavior Analysts grew within the auspices of the scientific psychology community, individual government agencies became concerned. However, at the federal level, the gamesmanship of the two major parties denied the possibility of a political resolution to the issue of qualification requirements for practicing behaviorist.

Why Would Regulations be Necessary to Govern Behavior Analysts?

Since the time of Freud and Jung, children with behavior issues have visited psychologists. With the recent recognition of autism and behaviors such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and hyperactivity, new techniques involving reward took precedence over the former negative stimulus approach. Specialist emerged who dealt specifically with children’s behavior issues. The greatest concern was that those unaware of new techniques would muddy the results of this revolution in treatment. Child psychologists who saw themselves as behavior analysts lobbied for regulations regarding the treatment of children with behavior issues. The Federal Government would not intervene as conservatives pushed to deregulate everything. The effort to regulate was left to the states under the 10th Amendment. New York was the first state to step into the fray with the creation of the LBA.

What is the LBA?

According to the New York State Association for Behavior Analysts, the LBA is a trained specialist in the field of Behavior Analysis. The LBA is only eligible to work with children with behavior issues in New York and then only with children whose problems are based on autism. The LBA designation is overseen by the New York State (NYS) Office of Professions. To become an LBA the state requires an abundance of specific coursework and an internship of no less than 1500 hours with supervisory oversight. The applicant must pass both the NYLBA exam and the Autism exam to enter private practice.

What is a BCBA?

During the turmoil created by the Federal Government refusal to establish credential requirements for Behavior Analysts across the nation, some state attempted to set a state board to govern the new field. However, all states except New York found the cost of establishment and maintenance of a board of qualified individuals to be beyond their means. A non-profit organization, created in 1998 to help states formulate regulations, stepped into the gap. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) approached each state to help establish rules regarding the profession. The states began designating the BACB as the governing body. Only New York remained a separate entity. Though the qualifying process in education and internship are nearly identical, the BCBA has greater range than the LBA. The BCBA is certified to handle ADD and other behavior issues as well as those brought on by autism. To become a BCBA an applicant must pass the BACB exam.

Will This Situation Ever be Resolved?

The predicament is that those with an LBA are only qualified to work in NYS, while those with a BCBA are unable to work in NYS. However, there are some signs that New York is relenting on its requirements to work in the state as a behaviorist. It is entirely possible that the difference between the LBA and BCBA may narrow shortly and rid itself of political factions.

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