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Mental health technicians, also called psychiatric technicians, assist in the day-to-day care of patients with behavioral or developmental brain conditions.
Certificate and diploma programs for aspiring mental health technicians are available online, though this article only looks at certificate programs in detail. Students in these programs explore topics in basic nursing, patient management and mental health theory. Some online programs require in-person attendance for a clinical practicum.
Mental health technicians generally need some kind of post-secondary education, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Voluntary certification is available for psychiatric technicians, and certified job applicants are often more attractive to potential employers. Some states require licensing for mental health technicians, so check with state requirements before choosing an educational program.
Certificate for Mental Health Technicians
Students training to become mental health technicians through online study usually complete a certificate program. These short programs prepare students to assist psychiatric nurses and psychiatrists in the daily care of the mentally challenged and emotionally disturbed.
Information and Requirements
This curricula of these online programs comprise approximately 34 credits in basic nursing and mental health. Longer programs are typically divided into two semesters plus a summer practicum. Entry into these programs varies, with most schools requiring little more than a high school diploma; however, some expect a background in nursing or another health care specialty.
Virtual classrooms have students purchasing textbooks online and interacting with the professors through forums and e-mail. Some schools only guarantee the program-specific courses to be offered online, with general education courses subject to online availability.
Common Mental Health Technician Courses
Curricula for mental health technician certificates include core courses in mental illness topics, as well as general courses in computers, composition and more. Some program requirements include a local practicum, which is usually performed on-site at a mental health facility.
Introductory Social Work
This online course introduces students to the history of social work practice in the U.S. and the various fields in which social workers assist clients, including mental health. The roles of social workers are examined, and students learn about the special concerns needed for working with diverse populations and at-risk individuals.
Mental Health Law and Ethics
The scope of a mentally challenged patient's legal rights is covered during this course. Through online formats like Web forums and chats, students discuss common issues and new research in the ethics of patient care. Confidentiality, particularly regarding the maintenance of client records, is an important focus of the curriculum.
This course teaches students how to manage the demands of a diverse caseload from the perspective of a mental health technician. Medical terminology and practical experience with workflow processes are among the topics covered by most programs.
Group Psychology and Processes
This course looks at the dynamics involved with care and treatment in a group setting. Instruction covers the effective theories on treatment in a larger care-facility setting, including methods for the mitigation of conflicts.
Mental health technicians earned a median hourly wage of $14.97 as of May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Entry-level requirements in this career field vary, with some applicants finding employment with only a certificate; other employers require a background in general nursing. Some locations may even require a bachelor's degree. Regardless, the BLS estimated that job opportunities for mental health technicians would grow by 5%, slower than average for all occupations, from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov).
Aspiring mental health technicians can complete online certificate programs that include courses in such areas as case management, group psychology and introductory social work. Upon program completion, graduates can seek certification in order to improve their employment prospects.