What Is a Licensed Psychiatric Technician?

If you have good interpersonal communication skills and the ability to react quickly during a medical or emotional crisis, you may consider working as a licensed psychiatric technician. Also known as mental health technicians, these professionals are highly qualified direct patient care providers for the mentally ill, emotionally unstable, or developmentally disabled. Schools offering Clinical Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

As a licensed psychiatric technician, you will probably work in some type of psychiatric care facility. You might perform initial intake interviews and assessment of clients being admitted. You'll also monitor, assess, evaluate, and document the behavior and medical needs of clients on a daily basis and carry out specific requests and instructions given by doctors and nurses. Other duties may include facilitating therapeutic groups, administering and monitoring the effects of medications, and providing crisis intervention.

Important Facts About This Career

Average Salary (2014) $35,160
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 4% job growth expected (slower than average)
Training Technicians receive on-the-job training, may attend workshops and lectures
Similar Occupations Surgical technologists, medical assistants, social and human service assistants, registered nurses, practical and vocational nurses

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reports that most psychiatric technicians complete postsecondary certificate programs in mental health or psychiatric technology. Training programs can be found at various vocational schools and community colleges.

Certificate and associate's degree programs in this field may include anatomy, physiology, nutrition, body mechanics, and infection control. Students also learn about psychological growth and development, treatment and intervention programs for mental illness, developmental disabilities, addictions, and end-of-the-lifespan issues. Pharmacology, patient rights, and supervision skills are also part of the curriculum.

In addition to classroom work, you will be required to perform clinically supervised practicums with licensed professionals in a typical psychiatric setting. Upon successful completion of a program of study, you may be required to take a state licensure exam. Your license is good for two years; in order to renew your license, you must take at least 30 continuing educational credits, every two years.

Levels of Certification

According to the American Association Of Psychiatric Technicians (www.psychtechs.org), licensed psychiatric technicians are certified in four levels:

  • Level 1 - requires graduation from high school or a GED certificate
  • Level 2 - requires 480 college hours, plus one year of experience working with people with mental health issues or developmental disabilities
  • Level 3 - requires 960 college hours, plus two years of working in the field
  • Level 4 - requires a bachelor's degree, plus three years of work experience

There is a basic open-book exam given to all levels comprising 201 comprehensive multiple-choice questions. If you want to be certified at a level higher than Level 1, you must also complete an essay regarding situations on the job.

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