Mental health technicians can be found in a variety of settings depending on their preference and job prospects. Responsibilities may include assisting mental health professionals, caring for patients' daily needs, and monitoring patients' health. While there are no educational prerequisites beyond a high school diploma, biology and psychology related courses as well as volunteering can help better prepare a student to take a position as a mental health aide.
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Mental health technicians work under the supervision of psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors to care for emotionally disturbed and mentally ill patients. They are employed mostly in public and private psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes, residential mental health institutions and schools for the mentally retarded. They generally provide therapeutic care for their patients, assisting with daily activities and maintaining an environment that is both clean and safe.
|Required Education||High school diploma, postsecondary certificate preferred|
|Other Requirements||Experience in a clinical setting|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||5% for psychiatric technicians and aides*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$31,140 for psychiatric technicians and aides*|
*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Employers sometimes hire and train applicants who hold a high school diploma as psychiatric aides. Therefore, high school students desiring a career as a mental health technician should study psychology, anatomy, biology and sociology and obtain experience related to mental health technology by volunteering in mental health facilities.
However, employers prefer to hire psychiatric technicians who hold a certificate or associate's degree in mental health technology or related field, such as certified nursing assistant. Individuals planning to pursue a mental health technician career must have good interpersonal and observation skills.
Mental health technology education programs usually include courses in psychology, crisis intervention, human development, substance abuse and group dynamics. Students learn to coordinate mental health services, document treatments and help patients with their needs, including personal hygiene. Candidates in associate's degree programs may receive advanced training in helping mental health professionals coordinate, assess and treat patients. Both associate's degree and certificate programs typically include internships in mental health care facilities.
Training varies depending on the employer, but newly hired mental health technicians usually receive some type of training, which may include on-site classroom instruction. Many employers offer tuition reimbursement and encourage mental health technicians to use the program to obtain certificates, diplomas and degrees. Mental health technician career training programs are also available at some vocational high schools.
Employers and the vast majority of states have no certification requirements for mental health technicians. Only a handful of states, including Kansas, Colorado, Arkansas and California, require psychiatric technicians to pass the certification exam administered by the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians (AAPT). Mental health technicians who pass the AAPT exam may have a competitive edge in the job market.
The education requirements to become a mental health technician are not rigorous. To increase job prospects, however, certificate and associates degree programs are recommended. School programs may cover topics such as psychology, patient care, and human development and some employers may even offer incentives and tuition reimbursement for new employees to further their educational experience.