Psychiatric technicians and aides care for people who have mental illness and developmental disabilities.
What they do
Psychiatric technicians, sometimes called mental health technicians, typically do the following:
- Observe patients’ behavior, listen to their concerns, and record their condition
- Lead patients in therapeutic and recreational activities
- Give medications and other treatments to patients, following instructions from doctors and other medical professionals
- Help with admitting and discharging patients
- Monitor patients’ vital signs, such as their blood pressure
- Help patients with activities of daily living, including eating and bathing
- Restrain patients who may become physically violent
Psychiatric aides typically do the following:
- Monitor patients’ behavior and location in a mental healthcare facility
- Help patients with their daily living activities, such as bathing and dressing
- Serve meals and help patients eat
- Keep facilities clean by doing tasks such as changing bed linens
- Participate in group activities, such as playing sports and going on field trips
- Help transport patients within a hospital or residential care facility
- Restrain patients who may become physically violent
Many psychiatric technicians and aides work with patients who are severely developmentally disabled and need intensive care. Others work with patients undergoing rehabilitation for drug and alcohol addiction. The work of psychiatric technicians and aides varies with the types of patients they work with.
Psychiatric technicians and aides work as part of a medical team under the direction of physicians and with other team members, who may include psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, social workers, counselors, and therapists.
Because they have such close contact with patients, psychiatric technicians and aides can have a great deal of influence on patients’ outlook and treatment.
Psychiatric technicians and aides may spend much of their shift on their feet. Some of the work that psychiatric aides do may be unpleasant. They may care for patients whose illnesses make them disoriented, uncooperative, or violent.
Psychiatric technicians and aides have some of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Their work requires many physically demanding tasks, such as lifting patients. They also work with patients who may be physically uncooperative, which can cause injuries.
Psychiatric technicians and aides may work full time or part time. Because hospitals and residential facilities operate 24 hours a day, many psychiatric technicians and aides work nights, weekends, and holidays
How to become a Psychiatric Technician and/or Aide
Psychiatric technicians typically need a postsecondary certificate, and aides need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Both technicians and aides get on-the-job training.
Psychiatric technicians typically have a postsecondary certificate. Often, they have experience as a nursing assistant or a licensed practical nurse and have completed postsecondary education in nursing.
Other psychiatric technicians may have a postsecondary certificate or associate degree in psychiatric or mental health technology. These programs are offered by community colleges and technical schools and include courses in biology, psychology, and counseling. Psychiatric technician programs may include supervised work experience or cooperative programs, in which students gain academic credit for structured work experience.
Psychiatric aides typically need a high school diploma or equivalent.
Psychiatric technicians and aides usually have a short period of on-the-job training before they can work without direct supervision.
Training may include working with patients while under the close supervision of an experienced technician or aide. Technicians and aides may also attend workshops, lectures, or in-service training.
The median annual wage for psychiatric aides was $31,110 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,440, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $47,690.
Overall employment of psychiatric technicians and aides is projected to grow 12 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Cognitive mental disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, are more likely to occur among older persons. As the nation’s population ages and people live longer, demand for psychiatric technicians and aides is expected to increase because these workers will be needed to care for patients affected by such disorders.
Psychiatric technicians and aides also will be needed in correctional facilities, to care for the aging prisoner population and for those with mental health issues.
Similar Job Titles
Behavioral Health Technician, Health Care Technician, Licensed Psychiatric Technician (LPT), Mental Health Assistant (MHA), Mental Health Associate, Mental Health Specialist, Mental Health Technician (MHT), Mental Health Worker, Psychiatric Technician (PT), Residential Aide (RA)
Mental Health Aide (MHA), Mental Health Technician (MHT), Mental Health Worker (MHW), Patient Care Assistant (PCA), Psychiatric Aide, Psychiatric Nursing Aide, Psychiatric Nursing Assistant, Resident Care Technician, Residential Counselor, Therapeutic Program Worker (TPW)
Social and Human Service Assistant, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse, Occupational Therapy Assistant, Physical Therapist Assistant, Correctional Officer and Jailer
Psychiatric Technician, Home Health Aide, Occupational Therapy Aide, Correctional Officer and Jailer, Childcare Worker
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Association of Psychiatric Technicians - The AAPT is a non-profit organization that administers a voluntary national certification examination to test knowledge of psychiatric technology. Since January 1991, the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians has operated for the benefit of the general public and those interested in mental health.
- American Psychological Association - The mission of this organization is to promote the advancement, communication, and application of psychological science and knowledge to benefit society and improve lives.
- National Board for Certified Counselors - Established as a not-for-profit, independent certification organization in 1982, the NBCC’s original and primary purposes have broadened, and its divisions and affiliates have taken on additional responsibilities to advance the counseling profession and enhance mental health worldwide.
Magazines and Publications
Psychiatric technicians and aides provide safety and support to help people with mental illness and severe developmental disabilities enjoy quality of life, and to improve their mental health. Also known as mental health technicians, psychiatric technicians assist with patients’ therapeutic care; they listen to patients’ concerns and lead them in recreational or therapeutic activities. They also have medical tasks, administering medication and monitoring patients’ vital signs. Psychiatric aides assist with transportation, engage patients in activities, and maintain a safe, clean physical environment. Both technicians and aides help patients with daily living needs, such as eating, bathing, and dressing. Meeting patients’ needs requires patience and fortitude as well as the stamina to be on your feet all day and, if it comes to it, the strength to restrain a distressed or violent patient. It’s not always pleasant work. However, these workers can have a great deal of influence on patients’ outlooks and treatments. Observation skills, communication, and compassion are key qualities in these fields. Psychiatric technicians and aides work in psychiatric hospitals, residential mental health facilities, and chemical dependency addiction treatment centers. Facilities are typically all-hours, so work hours may include nights, weekends, and holidays. Psychiatric technicians usually need a certificate in the field, and many also have previous experience as a nursing assistant or licensed practical nurse. Psychiatric aides typically need only a high school diploma. Both technicians and aides get on-the-job training before they work without direct supervision.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org