Forest Institute launches state’s only master’s for the treatment of autistic disorders

Despite the desperate need for mental health practitioners trained to treat autism and related disorders, Missouri's colleges and universities don't provide graduate-level training in this field.

Until now.

The School of Professional Psychology at Forest Institute is launching a Master of Science in Applied Behavioral Analysis at both of its locations – the main campus in Springfield and the St. Louis site – starting this fall. A certificate program for people with master's degrees in related fields will also be available at both locations.

Applied behavioral analysis is the primary method used to treat people with autism spectrum disorders, which include autism, Asperger's syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average number of children in the U.S. with an autism spectrum disorder is 1 in 110.

And compared to this number, there are relatively few people who become board-certified behavior analysts each year. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board reports that over the last 12 months, only 1,180 people nationwide passed its test and became certified.

"Helping narrow this glaring gap by training autism spectrum disorder specialists is yet another step Forest is taking to enrich the lives of others in our communities,” said Mark Skrade, president of the Forest Institute. "Children, especially those with developmental disorders, are often the most vulnerable segment of the population, and these two new programs will create clinicians who can instill hope for the future in these children and their families.”

Applied behavior analysis "is both an applied science that develops methods of changing behavior and a profession that provides services to meet diverse behavioral needs,” according to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board's website. Graduates of Forest's programs will gain competencies in the areas of behavioral principles, assessment, interventions and change procedures through both in-class instruction and hands-on practical experience with actual patients.

Prospective students are encouraged to visit Forest on the Web for additional information and to apply online. They can also call the Office of Admissions at 1-800-424-7793 or send an email to

For three decades, Forest Institute has been a champion of clinical training and service to the underserved, not only in southwest Missouri but also across the national landscape.Forest was founded in 1979 to provide an alternative to the traditional teaching Ph.D. programs of education. The programs were designed to prepare individuals to serve as direct providers of mental health services rather than researchers or academicians. Forest operates the Robert J. Murney Clinic in Springfield and is one of the few graduate programs in the nation to offer its students a free-standing clinic for practicum experience.