What Is a Mental Health Tech?

Get to know this valuable player on your mental health treatment team

A group therapy session.
A group therapy session.. Tom Merton/Getty Images

Mental health techs, also called psychiatric aides or mental health assistants, are key players of a mental health treatment team. But what exactly do they do — and why are they important? Here is what you should know.

The Many Roles of Mental Health Techs

If you or someone you love suffer from a severe phobia (or more than one along with a substance abuse disorder), you may work with a mental health tech as part of your overall treatment plan.

Mental health techs are employed in a variety of settings, including outpatient mental health facilities as well as long-term care facilities for both adults and children.

Mental health techs wear many hats. A typical day may consist of filling out admittance forms for new patients, leading an individual or group therapy session, administering prescribed medication, assisting the facility’s cook in preparing and serving lunch, leading a psycho-educational group, supervising family visits and helping patients with personal hygiene.

In general, mental health techs are also expected to implement behavior modification programs for individual clients; be available for clients who need to talk; and keep the facility running in an orderly manner. It's also their job to observe the behavior patterns of patients and to report these observations to the trained medical staff.

There's no single treatment approach when it comes to mental health techs.

Instead, the tech's approach with patients most often reflects the philosophy of the facility at which they're employed. This is because many mental health aides are psychology students and are legally required to be supervised by those with advanced degrees.

How Are Mental Health Techs Trained?

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.

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.


The Florida Area Health Education Centers Network. “Mental Health Technician / Mental Health Aide.” Retrieved July 19, 2009.

Continue Reading