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Understanding What a Mental Health Tech Does

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Updated July 25, 2009

What Is a Mental Health Tech - Overview:

Mental health techs, sometimes known by other names such as mental health aides, are a critical part of the treatment team. They provide hands-on care and direct observation that can assist other team members in diagnosis and treatment. Here is an overview of the many roles played by a typical mental health tech.

Education and Training:

In many jurisdictions, mental health techs need no particular education beyond a high school diploma. Traditionally, employers have provided classroom instruction and on-the-job training to develop the relevant skills. However, this is slowly changing. Many employers now require college coursework in psychology or social work. A few even require a bachelor’s degree.

Regardless of education, excellent relationship skills and problem-solving abilities are essential. Mental health techs must be flexible, adaptable, and able to think quickly.

Approach:

No single approach defines mental health techs. As many are current psychology students, they tend to be eager to try out new ideas that they learn in school. Additionally, mental health techs are legally required to be supervised by those with advanced degrees. Therefore, the approach that is used often reflects the philosophy of the facility more than that of the individual tech.

Job Duties:

Mental health techs are expected to wear many hats. A typical day may consist of running a group activity in the morning, dispensing medication before lunch, assisting the facility’s cook in preparing and serving lunch, leading a psycho-educational group in the afternoon, and supervising family visits before dinner. In between, they are generally expected to be available to clients who need to talk, implement behavior modification programs for individual clients, and keep the facility running in an orderly manner.

Specializations:

As an entry-level position, the mental health tech generally has little opportunity for specialization. Instead, techs tend to choose the work locations that suit them best, from halfway houses to locked-down residential units. Techs may also choose to work in chemical dependency units or special-needs schools. Many techs take several different jobs while in school in order to explore their options and choose a direction for specialized education.

Source:

The Florida Area Health Education Centers Network. “Mental Health Technician / Mental Health Aide.” Retrieved July 19, 2009 from http://flahec.org/hlthcareers/psychtec.htm.

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