December 18, 2014

New degree program responds to growing need

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A new bachelor’s degree program in Behavior Analysis and Therapy offered by Southern Illinois University Carbondale will be the only such program in Illinois and one of only two in the nation. 

The undergraduate program will be available beginning in fall 2015. SIU has offered a master’s degree in Behavior Analysis and Therapy for more than 40 years. However, as more people are diagnosed with autism and are sustaining brain injuries, the need for professionals is growing, according to Ruth Anne Rehfeldt, professor of behavior analysis and therapy. 

“The discipline of Behavior Analysis is experiencing a surge in popularity as the demand for board certified master’s and bachelor’s level behavior analysts increases in a variety of human service settings across the country,” Rehfeldt said. “Much of this need is driven by the efforts to provide human services for people with disabilities in integrated community settings.” 

Years ago, it was more common for people with some disabilities, particularly severe ones, to be provided for in isolated, segregated institutions. Today, they typically live and work in community settings, so there is a significant need for trained professionals to assist them, she said.  

A bachelor’s degree in Behavior Analysis and Therapy prepares students for careers in various human service settings including working with people who have intellectual disabilities, traumatic brain injuries or autism, as well as with the elderly. Rehfeldt said graduates will qualify for employment in day treatment and residential programs serving those with disabilities and their families. 

In addition, program graduates will also be prepared for entry into a master’s degree program in Behavior Analysis and Therapy, like the one at SIU’s Rehabilitation Institute, so they can become Board Certified Behavior Analysts. 

The curriculum for the undergraduate program emphasizes behavior assessment and measurement, using research methodology to evaluate the effectiveness of behavioral interventions, and applying behavioral principles to various clinical and social problems, Rehfeldt said. The program will incorporate classroom and online courses. 

It also includes a practicum that students will complete in a human service setting in the region as well as opportunities for hands-on study of basic learning processes in the Rehabilitation Institute’s invertebrate laboratories. Students may also enhance their learning experience, network and advance their career potential by participating in the Behavior Analysis and Therapy registered student organization. 

Applications for and additional information about the new undergraduate program are available online at