How to Become a Behavioral Health Technician

People who work as behavioral health technicians (BHTs) provide daily support for clients in addiction recovery, as well as help doctors and medical professionals provide treatment.

Behavioral health technicians (BHTs), also known as psychiatric or mental health technicians, work with clients in addiction recovery and help doctors and counselors provide treatment. People in these roles typically need good interpersonal and observational skills to help clients who are experiencing difficult circumstances in life.

To become a BHT most employers require at least an associate’s degree or related certification. However, some positions only require a high school diploma or GED and relevant health care experience.

BHTs are crucial staff members who ensure that treatment plans are being followed throughout each day and provide quick assistance to clients who need it. Their assistance allows doctors and other medical professionals to focus their efforts on forming diagnoses and creating effective treatment plans for clients.

What Do BHTs Do?

The most common duties carried out by BHTs include:

  • Observing client behavior and listening to concerns
  • Leading therapeutic and recreational activities
  • Providing medication and treatment as instructed by doctors
  • Assisting in client admission and discharge
  • Monitoring vital signs
  • Helping clients with day-to-day activities
  • Restraining clients who may become violent

BHTs typically work in inpatient settings, such as in addiction treatment centers, psychiatric hospitals and mental health care facilities.

Behavioral Health Techs Make a Difference

“I hated it at first but I’m so grateful I stayed. The staff here really really does care. Special shout outs. BHT: Chris. Ryan. Deandra. B. Sharon. David. Trina. Val. Big john. Dane..”

“There was not one BHT that did not always have a smile on their face each day and was there for our every need, and I know it’s a hard job dealing with patients that are going through recovery, especially the patients going through detox. Every last one of the BHT staff is amazing!”

“I’ve never seen anywhere else where the people care so much about the their job and the clients they serve. The BHTs are the staff you have most contact with and they are a group of some really good and patient people.”

“My stay at ORC was overall a great stay! The BHT’s where nothing, but nice and understanding they always went above and beyond for what I needed and also great listeners!”

*Actual reviews from recent alumni

How to Become a Behavioral Health Technician

In some places, a person can begin working as a BHT after graduating from high school. While there are no strict requirements for education or licensing, many employers prefer or may even require candidates to have higher education, certifications and relevant experience.

Educational and Job Training Requirements

There are a few paths a person can take to become a BHT. Certificate programs for behavioral health train students to work with people who have social, personal, mental health or substance abuse issues. Students in these programs complete core coursework involving counseling, ethics and human relationships.

People can also pursue an associate’s degree in behavioral health, which may include other general coursework in addition to core classes. These programs set up BHTs to pursue further education, as classes carry over to bachelor’s programs and beyond.

Many BHT positions require some clinical experience, which can be acquired through internships while in a behavioral health program or by working as nursing assistants or psychiatric aides.

Related Topic: Addiction treatment specialists 

Required Certifications and Licenses

The American Association of Psychiatric Technicians offers four levels of certification. While certification is not always necessary to become a BHT, it may be required by some organizations. Additionally, certifications can help demonstrate a candidate’s level of professional skill.

What to Expect After School and Training

After completing a certificate program or receiving an associate’s degree, a BHT can jump into the job market. Demand for BHTs is expected to rise in the future. This is likely because America is recognizing the very real treatment gap and shifting its perspective on addiction and mental health. Many pre-existing facilities are now expanding treatment services, and new facilities are opening their doors to treat millions of Americans who need help.

Occupational Demand for BHTs

The number of behavioral health technician jobs is expected to increase by 12% by 2028, more than twice the average rate. BHTs earned a median annual salary of $32,870 in 2018. 

How to Find a Job

BHTs can search for open positions through online job boards, such as Indeed, Careerlink and ZipRecruiter. Mental health-focused boards, such as iHireMentalHealth, also provide a variety of opportunities for BHTs and related positions. Local hospitals, rehab facilities and mental health clinics may also list open positions on their respective websites.

Available Positions at The Recovery Village

The Recovery Village has several facilities throughout the United States, and we are always looking to add new professionals to our team of industry-leading experts. In addition to positions at one of our facilities, jobs are also available nationally through our telehealth platform. Our evidence-based approach to addiction treatment has made us one of the first organizations to be designated as a Blue Distinction Center for Substance Use Treatment. We are accredited by The Joint Commission, and our staff collectively holds over 3,000 professional credentials.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Psychiatric Technicians and Aides.” September 4, 2019. Accessed April 16, 2020. “Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, D[…]: Executive Summary.” Accessed April 16, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.