How to Become a Mental Health Technician

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Mental health technicians are at the forefront of a rewarding field. They are responsible for the day-to-day health and well-being of patients, many with significant needs. Compassion, patience and a passion for helping others are essential qualities for mental health technicians.

What Is a Mental Health Technician?

Mental health technicians are on the front lines of patient care. They provide direct service to individuals with severe mental illness, addiction or even developmental disabilities. Their responsibilities are broad and may include the following duties:

  • Assessing and observing patients
  • Facilitating therapeutic activities
  • Developing and implementing treatment plans
  • Basic nursing and monitoring vital signs
  • Administering medication
  • Evaluating treatment plans
  • Documenting behavior, treatment and other relevant information
  • Assisting patients with activities of daily living (i.e. bathing, eating, etc.)
  • Maintaining patient facilities
  • Transporting patients
  • Educating patients and their families

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that mental health technicians work in settings such as:

  • Psychiatric hospitals
  • General medical hospitals
  • Residential mental health facilities
  • Substance abuse centers
  • Outpatient treatment centers

How to Become a Mental Health Technician

Both education and hands-on training are required for a career as a mental health technician. Most individuals must obtain at least some college education. Earning a bachelor’s degree is a good way to stay competitive and get ahead. Mental health technicians also need some experience, which they often gain as nursing assistants or licensed practical nurses.

Most states do not require mental health technicians to have official licensure, but a few do. Unlicensed mental health technicians may pursue voluntary national certification through the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians (AAPT). With the Nationally Certified Psychiatric Technician (NCPT) designation, individuals are recognized as paraprofessionals who can participate on mental health treatment teams. The AAPT offers four levels of certification with the following requirements.

  • Level 1: High school diploma or GED.
  • Level 2: At least 480 hours of college or university courses, plus at least one year of relevant work experience.
  • Level 3: At least 960 hours of college or university courses, plus at least two years of relevant work experience.
  • Level 4: Bachelor’s degree in a mental health or developmental disabilities field, plus at least three years of relevant work experience.

Mental Health Technician Salary

Like most careers, experience and education directly impact compensation. According to PayScale, mental health technicians in the highest percentiles make more than $46,000, with the median salary at about $31,500. Opportunities in this job are expected to grow steadily, increasing 5 percent by 2024.

For those interested in advancing beyond the role of mental health technician, numerous career paths are available. Some might include:

  • Physician assistants
  • Social workers
  • Mental health counselors
  • Case managers
  • Therapists

If you have a desire to help others, a career as a mental health technician can be an exciting opportunity for growth. Jefferson’s online B.S. in Behavioral and Health Services provides a comprehensive curriculum designed to train students to enter the field or continue their studies. Students benefit from a flexible online format and can complete their degree in as little as two years.

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