A psychiatric technician, sometimes called a "psych tech," is a mental health professional who provides care and assistance to people who are hospitalized due to psychiatric illnesses. Not to be confused with a psychiatric aide, a psychiatric technician provides a variety of therapeutic interventions to help patients as they recover from and deal with mental illness. If you enjoy helping others, a career as a psychiatric technician might be the right choice for you.
Education and Training
In addition to a high school diploma, psychiatric technicians usually need some formal training. Although the specific educational requirements vary by state and hiring agency, many psychiatric technicians earn specialist certificates from community colleges or other educational institutions. The certificate generally requires between one semester and two years of study, depending on the institution, and involves coursework on biology, psychology and mental health counseling. California, Arkansas, Kansas and Colorado offer licensure for psychiatric technicians. Voluntary certification is offered on four levels by the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians for candidates living in the 46 states that do not offer licensure. To become certified, you must pass an examination and submit proof of your education and experience.
Psychiatric technicians are members of interdisciplinary teams consisting of other mental health professionals, including social workers, nurses, psychiatrists and psychologists. They work in different settings, including hospitals, residential treatment facilities, home health care agencies, prisons, rehabilitation centers and psychiatric crisis units. They typically work 40 hours per week, though some organizations may also offer part-time or temporary work. Due to the nature of the work, hours can be irregular and may include overnights, weekends or holidays.
The main responsibility of psychiatric technicians is to provide care to people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities. They help clients in a number of ways, including administering medication, helping with activities of daily living, performing assessments, educating patients and their family members about mental illness, evaluating patient progress and assisting with therapeutic activities, according to the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians.
To become a psychiatric technician, you must have excellent people skills and be able to relate well with people struggling with mental illness. Because of the nature of the work, you should be able to establish professional boundaries while maintaining an attitude of compassion and empathy for your clients. You must be able to tolerate high levels of stress and be emotionally -- and physically -- prepared to deal with potentially violent or suicidal patients. Psychiatric technicians may spend most of their working hours on their feet, so you should be able to tolerate long periods of standing or walking.
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