September 26, 2023

How To Become a Mental Health Tech

A mental health tech in scrubs holds a clipboard and speaks with a patient.

In the complex realm of mental health treatment, mental health technicians, also called psychiatric or behavioral health technicians, play a crucial role. They are the compassionate souls who work directly with patients facing disabilities, illnesses, or substance use challenges. Hand in hand with physicians, psychiatrists, social workers, and counselors, they form an essential part of the treatment team.

In this diverse field, various certifications range from high school diplomas to bachelor's degrees with substantial work experience. Your skills and goals will help you discover the right path for you. We’ll explore the role of Mental Health Techs and what it takes to become one below.

Table of contents:

What is a Mental Health Tech?

Mental Health Technicians are specialized healthcare professionals who work with individuals facing mental health challenges. They often work in hospitals on psychiatric units as well as in inpatient psychiatric treatment facilities. Their responsibilities encompass coordinating patient care, providing essential support for daily tasks, and ensuring a clean and safe environment for patients. 

This profession plays a crucial role in promoting individuals' mental well-being. Mental Health Techs are known for their keen attention to detail and adaptability. They also diligently communicate and report any concerning events or behaviors to supervisors or the patient's healthcare team.

5 steps to becoming a Mental Health Tech

Education requirements

1. Attain High School Diploma or Equivalent

Your journey towards becoming a Mental Health Tech embarks with a high school diploma or its equivalent, such as a GED. During your high school years, cultivate your passion by enrolling in available psychology, biology, and healthcare-related courses. These subjects can lay a strong foundation for your future journey in the field.

2. Pursue Post-Secondary Education

While not always mandatory, the quest for post-secondary education can be a treasure trove of knowledge. Pursue a certificate or an associate degree program in mental health or a related field. These programs are rich sources of wisdom, offering courses in psychology, pharmacology, and behavioral management.

Gaining relevant experience

3. Acquire Practical Experience

On your journey to becoming a Mental Health Tech, practical experience serves as your guiding compass. Dive headfirst into the world of mental health facilities, hospitals, or similar healthcare settings through volunteering or internships. Working in related roles, like Behavioral Health CNA, may aid in the transition to becoming a Mental Health Tech. This hands-on experience will not only deepen your understanding but also make you a more formidable candidate.

4. Complete Required Training

Many healthcare employers provide a lifeline in the form of on-the-job training for Mental Health Techs. During this training, you'll become adept at facility-specific procedures, master patient care techniques, and become proficient with specialized equipment. Commit wholeheartedly to this training, as it is the cornerstone of safety for both you and the patients under your care.

You can find opportunities for on-the-job training by regularly checking job listings at healthcare facilities and hospitals. Many employers explicitly state if they provide training for entry-level positions like Mental Health Techs. Additionally, networking with healthcare professionals and attending healthcare career events can help you discover facilities offering training programs.

Certification and licensure

5. Obtain Necessary Certifications

Though certification requirements may vary, obtaining certification can significantly elevate your career prospects. A Certified Mental Health Technician (CMHT) credential stands as a testament to your expertise in the field.

How long does it take to become a Mental Health Tech?

The timeline to become a Mental Health Tech can vary, influenced by educational choices and state regulations. On average:

  • High school diploma or equivalent: 4 years
  • Post-secondary education (optional): 1-2 years
  • Practical experience and training: Several months to a year
  • Certification (optional): Varies based on individual preparation

In general, it takes approximately 2 to 4 years to become a Mental Health Technician, allowing for some flexibility based on your chosen path.

Exploring new job opportunities 

With your qualifications and certification in hand, it's time to embark on your job search journey. To find the best Mental Health Tech jobs, use online job portals and search engines. Enter the keywords "mental health tech jobs near me" to discover opportunities in your local area.

Additionally, consider exploring flexible options like CareRev, where you can work on your own schedule while making a meaningful impact in the field. This on-demand connection will help you identify shift openings that align with your career goals and location preferences. Remember, your next fulfilling role may be just around the corner.

Charting a career path

The demand for Mental Health Techs in healthcare settings continues to surge, driven by an increasing awareness of mental health issues. These professionals have extensive contact with patients, actively engaging them in therapeutic and recreational activities. In addition, they play a pivotal role in assisting patients with daily tasks and essential skills, such as hygiene and medication management.

As a Mental Health Technician, you can find yourself working in psychiatric facilities, including units within general hospitals, substance abuse centers, and outpatient mental health clinics. In these environments, you often build long-term relationships with the same patients, which can be incredibly rewarding. Witnessing their progress and being a part of their journey towards improved mental well-being adds a profound sense of fulfillment to this dynamic career.

A bright future as a Mental Health Technician

As you embark on the path to becoming a Mental Health Tech, remember that your role extends far beyond just a career choice. You are set to become a vital contributor to the betterment of society's mental health. Your position as a beacon of support and care within healthcare settings is both deeply rewarding and essential.

So, as you take your initial steps on this fulfilling journey, keep in mind that you are not merely building a career; you are actively shaping a brighter future for the field of mental health care. Embrace the opportunities that come your way, make a meaningful difference, and let your light shine in this noble profession.

Want to learn about other in-demand healthcare professions? Explore more professions with shifts offered through the CareRev App.

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