Behavioral Health Technicians


Education and Training Requirements

High School

The minimum requirement to work as a behavioral health technician is a high school diploma, although a certificate or associate's degree may be required for employment. Courses that will provide a solid foundation for future work in this profession include psychology and sociology. English classes are helpful for honing written and verbal communication skills, and biology and health classes are also important.

Postsecondary Training

Behavioral health technicians may have an associate's degree in mental health technology. Those who work for hospitals may be required to have a bachelor's degree. Course work usually covers topics that include psychology, basic social science, human development, personality structure, mental illness, substance abuse, and crisis intervention. Other classes may include physiology, anatomy, biology, basic nursing, and medical science. Technician students in either associate or bachelor degree programs may also participate in internships while in school, receiving training and instruction in mental health care facilities.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification is not required by most states but can improve behavioral health technicians' skills and give them an edge in the job market. Arkansas, California, Colorado, and Kansas require psychiatric technicians, including behavioral health technicians, to be certified. Regardless of whether required or not, certification can help technicians to hone their skills, improve their knowledge, and advance in their career. Technicians who pass the certification program offered by the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians are awarded the designation Nationally Certified Psychiatric Technician, which may in some instances improve their salaries and the opportunities for promotions in their field. Visit the AAPT's Web site for certification information,

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Behavioral health technicians gain experience by volunteering, interning, or working part-time in mental health organizations and centers.

This type of work requires strong communication and listening skills. Each patient is different, with unique personality, interests, and needs. Technicians must be patient, have good listening skills, and be sensitive to other people. They must be careful in the words they choose and the actions they take when working with people in order to best help them. They must also stay alert and observant of their clients' actions and behaviors. Not all people will be able to verbalize how they are feeling or why they are behaving the way they are, so technicians must pay close attention and stay calm and resilient. In addition to mental stamina, physical stamina is also called upon in this job. Behavioral health technicians may spend much of the work day on their feet, so physical fitness is helpful. The ability to collaborate with others, such as the medical and mental health staff, is also essential. Strong organizational skills are needed for administrative tasks.