What Are the Duties of a Mental Health Technician?

If you have a positive attitude, are emotionally stable and want to help people who struggle with mental illness or emotional imbalances, you may have what it takes to become a mental health technician. The actual duties you'll perform are based on the level of care you're qualified to provide, as well as on the environment in which you are practicing. Many mental health technicians advance their training and education to become higher-level health care and psychiatric professionals. Schools offering Clinical Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Overview of Duties of a Mental Health Technician

The American Association of Psychiatric Technicians provides a general overview of duties for mental health technicians, also known as psychiatric technicians (www.psychtechs.org). As a mental health technician, your role often means that you'll spend more time with patients than any other member of the treatment team. You'll assist doctors in delivering treatment plans and report back on your patients' progress. Some of the key duties you'll perform include:

  • Providing direct patient care, guidance and positive role modeling
  • Planning, implementing, evaluating and monitoring treatment activities and groups
  • Assisting with medication administration
  • Assessing patients
  • Educating patients and their families

Potential duties are discussed in more detail below.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Median Salary (2014) $31,130
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 5%
Work Environment Hospitals, government facilities, residential and outpatient care facilities, and doctor's offices
Similar Occupations Medical assistant, home health aide, childcare worker

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Direct Patient Care

As a mental health technician, you'll evaluate patients' physical and mental states every day, taking vital signs and noting levels of mental alertness and functioning. You'll help patients with personal hygiene activities, such as bathing and getting dressed. You may also be asked to administer, as well as evaluate and assess, medications given to patients. In crisis situations, you'll be involved in crisis resolution and management, possibly employing the use of physical restraints. Additional responsibilities could include admitting new patients and facilitating conferences between patients and their families.

Facilitation of Groups and Activities

Another large part of your job as a mental health technician is to be an active part of the treatment team. You may lead therapy groups as well as plan, evaluate and monitor activities, trips, social functions and interventions. Communicating with interdisciplinary team members and families to update them on your patients' status is something you'll routinely do. It's important that you be observant and detail-oriented with a calm demeanor and excellent social skills. You may also be asked to escort patients to outside-the-facility events, such as court hearings or appointments with specialists or at testing centers.

Education Requirements

To work as a mental health technician, you'll most commonly need to complete a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree program. Depending on the type of program you choose, your studies could take anywhere from 1 semester to 2 years to complete. Your courses could cover topics such as psychiatric nursing, medical terminology, patient assessment, counseling, psychology and psychopharmacology, and you may be required to complete supervised work experience. Even though you'll have completed a formal training program, you may still need to undergo a short period of on-the-job training before you can work unsupervised.

Licensure is not required by most states, but of those that do, California is the most sizable. Eligibility requirements vary by state, but usually include completion of a formal training program and successfully passing an exam. If your state doesn't require licensure, you could earn optional certification from the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians to show your competence in the field. Four levels of certification are available, and education and experience requirements vary for each type of certification.

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