Mental Health Technicians Career Guide

Overview

The healthcare industry consists of many different fields, all of which deal with intricate, complicated issues to address the ever-changing needs of human welfare. As needs change and the industry grows, more and more specialties and sub-fields come into popular use. One of those relatively recent fields is the mental health specialty, which includes professionals such as mental health counselors and technicians, who build therapeutic relationships with patients to help them live healthy, productive lives. Such professionals deal with the most sensitive, complex (and some would say most intriguing) part of the human body: the brain. If you’re a naturally compassionate, thoughtful person who enjoys puzzles and working hard to find solutions to problems, a career in this field might be just what you’re looking for to make your mark on the world.

Job Duties

This job is extremely demanding, often requiring movement and standing for long hours of work; most shifts are 8-12 hours, but can run longer depending on staff shortages and patient need. On the most basic level, mental health technicians are responsible for maintaining therapeutic environment in hospital psychiatric units. In this challenging yet highly rewarding career, technicians deal with patients suffering from physiological and emotional problems, which could include anything from depression to psychosis. Some might choose to specialize in crisis intervention, drug and alcohol abuse and addiction recovery, or children with mental disturbances.

Other general tasks include weighing patients, checking vital signs, and collecting routine specimens and samples. According to many hospital rules and regulations, technicians answer directly to nurses but also frequently report to other members of the healthcare team.

Job Outlook

According to a 2011 report issued by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics,there were 71,570 technicians or psychiatric aids employed in the United States. As people face increasing amounts of stress and need for mental health help, technicians are in high demand in nearly every hospital and healthcare center. Employment opportunities can also be found in almost all mental health centers which deal with various disorders.

Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average mental health technician had an annual salary of $25,170 in 2011.More experience, training, and qualifications might lead to higher pay and more career growth opportunities.

Educational Requirements

At a bare minimum, technicians need to possess a high school diploma. For those looking to enhance both their skills and their chances at being selected for employment, they might consider a training program through a vocational school or community college. Online degrees are another option, if the student cannot attend a nearby campus-based institution or would simply like to study from the comfort of home.

Certification requirements vary from state to state, but students should be prepared to pass the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians’ certification process if they want to be licensed to work in a hospital or private practice in Arkansas, California, Colorado, or Kansas.

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