Behavioral health technician: What is it? How do I become one?

Are you interested in a career working with those with special needs? A career as a behavioral health technician may be a good fit for you!

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Behavioral health technicians, also known as mental health or psychiatric technicians or aides, help doctors, nurses and other mental health professionals with the treatment of patients who have various behavioral problems, developmental disorders or mental illness. As a behavioral health technician, you will work directly with the patient to implement the treatment plan prescribed.

The position involves assisting patients with activities of daily living and self-care. To improve a patient's skills, the technician provides a supportive, caring environment by encouraging positive behaviors and discouraging negative behaviors. Reporting and recording a patient's progress with various interventions is also an important part of the job. Showing compassion, good interpersonal and observational skills, and staying calm in stressful situations are important qualities of a behavioral health technician. Employment for these paraprofessionals can be found in many settings, including hospitals, shelters, mental health facilities, schools and even patient’s homes.

What is the job outlook for a behavioral health technician?

There is an increasing demand for paraprofessionals who are trained to provide direct service to individuals with disabilities. According to the Center for Disease Control, as of 2018, one in 44 children in the United States have an autism spectrum disorder, which is a 23% increase (1:54) from the 2016 numbers. There is also an increasing demand for support services in nursing homes. It is estimated by the Alzheimer’s Association that by 2025, over 7.2 million Americans will suffer from Alzheimer’s dementia, an 11% increase from 2022 rates. Because of the increasing prevalence of these disorders, there will be a much greater need for behavioral health technicians, meaning that more jobs will be available in the coming years.

How do I become a behavioral health technician?

To meet this growing demand, the Behavioral Analyst Certification Board has developed standards for a high school level credential known as a registered behavior technician (RBT). With this credential, both employers and employees can benefit. Employers can take advantage of third-party insurance billing and employees are more marketable. High school graduates can become registered if they are able to pass a background check, complete 40 hours of training, and pass the RBT examination.

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