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A behavioral health technician, also known as a mental health technician, is an allied health professional who provides support services in clinical environments that provide patient care to people with mental illness. Behavioral health technicians can work in inpatient and outpatient facilities like hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers. They are part of the patient care team and work to help patients get the best and most effective treatment possible. Salaries vary by region and level of training and people may find it helpful to use a salary reference website when evaluating job opportunities to compare quoted behavioral health technician salaries.
Requirements to become a behavioral health technician vary, depending on the region and the facility. Many facilities accept people with high school diplomas and train them on the job, giving preference to applicants who have mental health experience. Other facilities expect applicants to have two- or four-year college degrees in psychology or related fields. There are also certification programs specifically for behavioral health technicians that provide training to prepare people for work in the mental health field.
Behavioral health technicians are involved in day-to-day patient care. They are present on wards with patients and can assist patients in crisis, provide counseling, supervise group therapy, monitor patients while they exercise, and be involved in the monitoring of common rooms and areas. Like other members of the care team, they make observations about patients and may note these observations in the patient chart or report them to a doctor or nurse.
These allied health professionals do not have the training and certification to practice independently. Instead, they work under the supervision of nurses, doctors, licensed counselors, and other mental health professionals. A behavioral health technician with more experience will be trusted with more complex and independent tasks including sensitive patient interactions, while someone in training usually shadows an experienced technician to acquire on the job skills and learn to work with patients.
People in this field can choose to focus on specific areas of practice like working with patients who have eating disorders or substance abuse problems, or they can work on mixed and general wards with patients who have a wide variety of mental illnesses. This work requires sensitivity, patience, good observational skills, and an interest in psychology and the dynamics of human interactions. A behavioral health technician who can establish connections and build rapport with patients can have a very positive influence on a patient's treatment and outcome in a treatment program.