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New Brock PhD program first in province

The Applied Behaviour Analysis PhD program comes at a time when behaviour analysis is becoming the newest regulated health profession in the province
Brock University campus

With behaviour analysis set to become the newest regulated health profession in Ontario, Brock is launching a new PhD program in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA).

Housed in the Department of Applied Disability Studies (ADS), the PhD in ABA will be the first of its kind in Ontario and only the second doctoral ABA program available in Canada.

ABA-based interventions are used to address socially significant behaviour in a variety of areas related to childhood, parenting, mental health, substance abuse, dementia, organizational behaviour management, sport and other areas.

Brock’s new PhD program will offer comprehensive training in behaviour analysis, including applications of the science with different populations across diverse settings in keeping with the ADS mission of bettering the lives of people with disabilities and underserved populations through quality education. Graduates will be scientist-practitioners with the knowledge, skills and perspectives to become professors, community researchers, clinical supervisors or program evaluators, among many other roles.

Nearly 200 people registered for a recent information session to learn about applying to the program — a number that came as no surprise to Department Chair and Acting Graduate Program Director Rosemary Condillac, who says that “the timing couldn’t be better in terms of giving hope for capacity-building in the province.”

The Ontario Government is scheduled to fully proclaim the “Psychology and Applied Behaviour Analysis Act, 2021” next summer, after which time behaviour analysts will be regulated, an improvement that Condillac says helps protect the public.

“Ontario does not currently have a lot of doctoral-level trained behaviour analysts, but this program will inject new, qualified researchers into the system,” says Associate Professor Kimberley Zonneveld, who led the committee that developed the program proposal. “Meeting that need through the training offered in this program will raise the bar on behaviour analysis services across the province.”

Zonneveld notes that a clinic hosted by the department will provide experiential education by training students and building their applied knowledge related to their coursework and research, while also serving the Niagara region.

“We’ve really tried to develop a program that will teach students about the entire comprehensive scientific system that is behaviour analysis — including applied behaviour analysis, the experimental analysis of behaviour and behavioural theory and philosophy — to give students a strong conceptual understanding,” she says. “We believe that being well versed in all aspects of this comprehensive, scientific system will lead to researchers, clinicians and teachers who have a strong grasp of what this science is, what it can do and how it can best be applied.”

Condillac commends the program committee chaired by Zonneveld, which also included former co-chair Kendra Thomson, Valdeep Saini, Alison Cox and Nicole Luke, for designing an exceptional program.

“The development team were thoughtful about their own doctoral experiences, as well as what would make this stand apart from other programs,” says Condillac. “And I think they’ve done a phenomenal job of having dialogues and conversations in order to pull together a truly exciting and rigorous program that differentiates Brock from every other university in Ontario.”

She adds she is also grateful to both the Faculty of Social Sciences and the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs for their support throughout the program’s development.

“The clinical researchers in the Department of Applied Disability Studies are educators and advocates whose expertise is second to none,” says Ingrid Makus, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. “It is thrilling to see a PhD program added to their current and highly successful master’s-level offerings to help address a growing, urgent need.”

Applications for the first cohort of the PhD in ABA are due Friday, Dec. 1. Learn more and apply through the program’s website.