Psychiatric Technician

Behavioral Health Technician, Direct Care Worker (DCW), Health Care Technician   More Names
Licensed Psychiatric Technician (LPT), Mental Health Assistant (MHA), Mental Health Associate, Mental Health Specialist, Mental Health Technician (MHT), Mental Health Worker, Milieu Therapist, Patient Care Specialist, Psychiatric Technician (Psych Tech), Psychiatric Technician (PT), Psychiatric Technicians, Psychology Associate, Residential Aide (RA)

Care for mentally impaired or emotionally disturbed individuals, under the supervision and direction of a physician and according to established hospital or mental care center procedures. Monitor patient's physical and emotional well-being and report findings to medical staff. Develop and teach strategies to promote client wellness and independence. May participate in rehabilitation and treatment programs, help with personal hygiene, and administer medications.

Psychiatric technicians primarily work for privately-owned or non-profit hospitals or government run facilities. They typically work in institutional settings with people who have mental illnesses or developmental disabilities. These include general medical and surgical hospitals, psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, and mental care facilities. The rest are employed in nursing homes and residential care facilities, outpatient centers, and individual and family care settings.

Psychiatric technicians provide nursing, psychiatric, and personal care to mentally ill, developmentally disabled or emotionally disturbed patients. They collaborate with and assist doctors, psychologists, and rehabilitation therapists in working with patients to treat, rehabilitate, and return them to the community, if possible. They encourage patients to develop work skills and participate in social, recreational, and other therapeutic activities that build personal skills and social relationships.

When new patients arrive, psychiatric technicians may complete admission forms and interview them to assess their mental health status and obtain a mental health and treatment history. They assist in delivering the individual treatment plan developed by the medical and rehabilitation team, and monitor patients' physical and emotional well-being, reporting any unusual behavior or physical ailments to the medical staff.

During the course of their care, psychiatric technicians will observe and record measures of patients' behavior and physical condition using devices such as thermometers and blood pressure gauges. They will communicate and interact with patients, teaching, counseling and befriending them. As may be required, they will help restrain violent, potentially violent, or suicidal patients using verbal or physical means.

Psychiatric technicians may lead prescribed individual or group therapy sessions as part of specific therapy treatment. They may contact patients' relatives to arrange family conferences. They also may assist in record keeping, as instructed. Because their patients require round-the-clock care and monitoring, psychiatric technicians may work a rotating shift that includes evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays.

Patients who struggle with mental illness or developmental disabilities rely on professionals to care for them and ensure that they receive appropriate care in order to experience the best quality of life possible. Psychiatric technicians play an important role as part of mental health teams as they work with patients to provide the sensitive, caring services necessary to improve their lives and to ensure that they receive quality care.

Advancement opportunities for a psychiatric technician may involve greater patient treatment planning and implementation roles and supervision of psychiatric aides who perform some similar duties, but have less education and training. With additional education and training, a psychiatric technician may choose to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN).

Credentials Needed: There are no uniform credentialing requirements among the states for those who wish to work as psychiatric technicians. Currently, four states require psychiatric technicians to be licensed to work within that state: Arkansas, California, Colorado, and Kansas. In these states, licensing candidates must meet a number of particular and general conditions, such as a criminal background check, and also may need to undergo a medical physical exam to ensure that they are in good health. Since states periodically do revise their licensing requirements for various healthcare occupations, it is a good idea to check with your state health department for the latest information when beginning training.

For psychiatric technicians who work in the majority of states that currently do not require licensure, the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians (AAPT) offers a voluntary industry-based, skill certification that allows them to benchmark their knowledge and skill competency. This Nationally Certified Psychiatric Technician (NCPT) credential is available at four levels. Level 1 requires a high school diploma or GED plus passing a national exam. Level 2 requires completion of 30 semester hours (40 quarter hours) of college courses plus one year of experience working in the mental health or developmental disabilities field. Level 3 requires 60 semester hours (80 quarter hours) of college courses plus two years experience. Level 4 requires a bachelor degree in a related field and three years of experience. Levels 2, 3, and 4 also require successful completion of an essay examination.

There are other skill certifications that may be useful for psychiatric technicians to have, such as in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) available through training from the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross.

Some Key Things to Remember: Psychiatric technicians are mental health employees who provide hands-on care to people with varying degrees of mental illnesses and/or developmental disabilities. They perform vital, front-line services in all healthcare settings as they observe, treat and interact with patients. They carry out doctors' orders and also serve as the eyes, ears and hands of the diagnosing professional. They report back on how a treatment is working or on any unusual symptoms that need professional attention.

Many employers prefer to hire an entry-level psychiatric technician with some postsecondary training - such as offered by community colleges, four year colleges or universities, or technical or vocational centers, or online programs - with an associate's or bachelor's degree much preferred. Most states currently do not require licensure or registration to work as a psychiatric technician.

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Job Growth and Wages
Percent Job Growth:  
5% - Slower than average
Typical Wages (National):  
Annual: $25,290 - $42,930    Hourly: $12 - $21
Physical/Medical/Health Requirements

No specifc requirement is identified at this time.

Legal Requirements
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(Data Drawn from O*NET)

Career Snapshot

Typical Education:

High School or GED (HS)
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Percent Job Growth:

5% - Slower than average
Find Jobs

Typical Wages:

Annual: $25,290 - $42,930

Hourly: $12 - $21