A good way to learn if this type of work is for you is by volunteering at a mental health organization or a clinic within a hospital or school. Many health organizations offer volunteer opportunities to help with recreational and other types of activities with clients. Visit the Web sites of the organizations that interest you and search the events and volunteer sections for listings. A part-time or summer job as an assistant to a behavioral health or mental health professional is also an excellent way to learn firsthand what the day-to-day responsibilities are while gaining valuable work experience. The minimum age requirements for volunteer and part-time or summer work in the mental health industry will vary depending on the type of employer; for some, 18 years old may be the minimum, while others may require candidates to be at least 21 years old. Another excellent way to gain a better understanding of this profession is through an informational interview with a behavioral health technician. Ask your school’s career services office for help securing an interview.
Behavioral health technicians work closely with a team of medical and mental health professionals to provide treatment for people with behavioral disorders. A person in need of behavioral health treatment usually exhibits behaviors that pose a danger to themselves and/or other people. Behavioral disorders may stem from mental instability or a response to emotional and physical abuse. The types of behavioral problems that technicians may help to treat include obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, antisocial behaviors, oppositional-defiant disorders in adults (such as excessive arguing, frequent questioning of authority, etc.), post-traumatic stress disorder, and behavioral addiction, such as substance abuse, gambling, binge eating, and risky behavior, among others.
Behavioral health technicians meet with clients to assess the type of behavioral problems they have, conducting one-to-one interviews, taking notes, and collecting information and data for intake forms. They listen closely to patients’ concerns and observe and keep records of their behavior. Behavioral health technicians may also take patients’ vital signs, such as their heart rate and temperature. They share their intake with the medical and health care team to create the treatment program that is best suited for the clients’ needs.
Behavioral health technicians also provide information and support for the clients’ immediate caregivers. In addition to creating and sharing intake forms, other administrative duties include fielding questions from patients, caregivers, and medical and mental health professionals, producing reports, handling correspondence, and monitoring appointments and maintaining schedules.
In collaboration with and at the direction of the medical team, technicians can give patients medication. They also provide instruction and assistance with daily activities like eating and bathing. They may help patients learn how to keep their clothing and living areas clean. Some patients may behave unpredictably and behavioral health technicians must be prepared to intervene in dangerous situations, such as if a patient becomes violent or is suicidal. Technicians are trained to intervene verbally and, when required, by physical means. The job has physical requirements that are sometimes called upon, with technicians using protective movements or holds when deemed necessary.