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Behavioral Health Technician: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Aug 07, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a behavioral health technician. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about the job duties, certification options, and mental health technician salary.

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Career Overview

Behavioral health technicians or psychiatric technicians help doctors and nurses by carrying out treatment plans for people with behavioral problems. These professionals usually hold either a certificate or an associate's degree in mental health technology or psychiatric technology. Licensure or certification is sometimes required.

Required Education Certificate or associate's degree in psychiatric or mental health technology, in addition to on-the-job training
Additional Requirements Licensure is occasionally required; certification is voluntary but preferred by some employers
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026) 6% for psychiatric technicians*
Median Annual Salary (May 2018) $30,860 for psychiatric technicians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Behavioral Health Technician Job Description

A behavioral health technician (or behavioral health specialist) assists with the treatment of patients who have various behavioral problems, such as substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental instability and physical and emotional abuse. These professionals often work in hospitals, shelters and mental health facilities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), behavioral health technicians, also called psychiatric technicians, earned a median annual salary of $30,860 as of May 2018. Job growth for these technicians is expected to be about average, with a projected increase of 6% from 2016 to 2026, according to the BLS.

Duties

A behavioral health technician is expected to understand and implement individual treatment plans, record patient behavior and provide a safe, supportive environment for the patients. Technicians may provide and record patient medications and assisting in daily activities, whether therapeutic or recreational. Their job may also include mediating or restricting any violent behavior. Some of the most important skills required for this field include interpersonal and observational skills, along with physical stamina.

Training and Educational Requirements

Education

Educational requirements for behavioral health technicians typically involve a postsecondary certificate, though associate's degrees are also available in the field. Degree programs undertaken by those in this field generally involve psychiatry or mental health technology, exploring topics such as biology, counseling, and psychology. Students can also often find internships while in the university to help gain experience. Many commonly have prior experience in the nursing field, such as nursing assistant or licensed practical nurse.

All degree ranges will receive extensive on-the-job training. This could include workshops, lectures, and working with patients while under the close supervision of an experienced professional in the field.

Certification

The most prominent organization offering certification in this field is the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians. There are four levels of certification that can be attained based on education and experience, and all levels require successful completion of an exam and/or an essay test. Level 1 certification entails completion of only a high school-level education, while Level 2 requires completion of 30 semester credit-hours and one year of professional experience.

There are a number of educational routes that one can take to become a behavioral health technician, though most of these professionals hold a certificate or an associate's degree. Those interested in this career field may also need to secure certification, depending on the employer and state where they work.

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