A new bill is being considered by Texas state lawmakers which would introduce a new category of mental health profession into state law. According to The Houston Chronicle, applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a therapeutic treatment which has had great success in treating the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is the most well-known and long-standing treatment for children on the autism spectrum.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports this diagnosis is now applicable to 1 in every 68 children in the United States. By requiring that practitioners be licensed, the bill will not only protect a highly vulnerable population from unqualified analysts, but also increase access to medical insurance coverage for the service.
Like any professional license holder, applied behavior analysts would have to prove they have the credentials to obtain a license, and maintain good standing with whichever professional licensing board oversees the licensing process. A Texas professional license defense attorney can help mental health professionals obtain and secure licensure during the uncertain period of transition.
Reasons For Requiring ABA Professional Licensure
The reason the state requires licensure of so many professional occupations is, first and foremost, to protect consumers. By ensuring that only qualified persons hold themselves out as professionals, the state allows the average lay person to hire a licensed professional and be assured of his or her credentials. The state’s many licensing agencies also administer complaint programs. This is a critical step in holding professionals accountable for actions which are inconsistent with their professional responsibilities, and legal duties of care.
It is also important to recognize that licensing systems also protect the professions themselves. Without a regulatory system, unqualified professionals are allowed to provide substandard services, and this gives the entire profession a bad reputation. This is particularly important in fields such as mental health. Psychotherapy, behavior analysis, psychiatry, and other related disciplines are relatively new - and highly misunderstood. It is crucial that the mental health industry be regulated appropriately so that unqualified practitioners cannot prey upon a misunderstanding public.
The public’s misunderstanding of mental health treatment was perhaps best illustrated by confusion at public hearings on the licensure bill. This confusion was not raised by the public - according to the Houston Chronicle, it came from the very legislators who were supposed to be taking testimony about the necessity of the bill. Two state representatives had to question what, exactly, would be licensed. The single opponent of the bill to testify at the hearings did not oppose licensure itself. Instead, psychologist Joseph McCoy believes that the licensure should be administered by the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists, because the therapy is rooted in psychological research and theory.
Protecting Your Professional License
Regardless of the fate of the applied behavior analyst bill, it is important for all professionals to exercise their occupations with due care. Even unlicensed professionals can be subjected to civil liability for the unauthorized practice of an occupation which requires licensure. In some cases (such as impersonating a police officer), this can lead to criminal liability, as well.