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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.

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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.

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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

*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.

Behavioral Health Technician Jobs at The Recovery Village

The Recovery Village is a nationwide leader in substance abuse and mental health care, and our staff members collectively hold over 3,000 professional credentials. We are always looking for qualified professionals to join our team, with open positions for behavioral health technicians in our facilities. View the most current positions on our job portal website.

FAQs about Behavioral Health Technicians

BHTs made a median salary of $32,870 per year in 2018.

A certified behavioral health technician (CBHT) has undergone certification processes like coursework, training, field experience and exams that indicate competency in behavioral health treatment.

BHTs typically wear scrubs. They may also be required to use gloves, masks and other safety equipment.

There are not typically telehealth opportunities for this field because BHTs work closely with onsite doctors and patients in residential settings.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Psychiatric Technicians and Aides.” September 4, 2019. Accessed April 16, 2020. 

SurgeonGeneral.gov. “Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health: Executive Summary.” Accessed April 16, 2020.

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