Psychiatric technicians assist psychiatrists and other mental health professionals who care for people who are mentally ill or developmentally disabled. A little over a third worked in psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals. Other big employers were general medical and surgical hospitals, residential facilities for mental health, and outpatient care centers.
If you’re interested in the profession, a few personal characteristics can be helpful. The most necessary is compassion. You need to be able to see situations from your patient’s point of view and want to help him. Patience is necessary because mentally people can be unpredictable. You must remain calm and professional, even if the patient becomes angry or upset. The job requires interaction with all kinds of people: mental health professionals, patients and family members. Your interpersonal skills will be valuable for listening and talking to individuals.
To enter the profession, you need at least a post-secondary certificate or associate degree in psychiatric or mental health technology. Completing it can take from one semester to two years. For example, Cypress College in southern California has a program that builds on a general education foundation with courses in English, social sciences, math and humanities. The professional courses include general psychology, nursing, and developmental and mental disabilities. New technicians typically receive additional training on the job before being allowed to work independently. Licenses are needed in four states: Arkansas, California, Colorado and Kansas, which demands completing an accredited program and passing an exam.
As do other mental health professionals, psychiatric technicians assess their patients by observing them, reading their medical histories and listening to their issues. They may then begin treatment, using instructions from doctors and other medical workers. They may plan and lead recreational activities, check vital signs such as blood pressure, and administer medications. Patients may become violent. If talking to them doesn’t calm them down, technicians must be prepared to physically restrain them for the safety of staff, visitors and other patients. Technicians also make records of all their activities and patient progress.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for psychiatric technicians are expected to increase 15 percent from 2010 to 2020. This is close to the 14 percent growth that the BLS predicts for all occupations in all U.S. industries. Behind the demand is an aging population that is likely to experience more mental diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Older parents may also be unable to take care of their developmentally disabled children. This provides job opportunities for technicians, particularly in residential facilities.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Work Environment for Psychiatric Technicians and Aides
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: What Psychiatric Technicians and Aides Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Psychiatric Technician or Aide
- Cypress College: Psychiatric Technician Program
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Job Outlook for Psychiatric Technicians and Aides
Aurelio Locsin has been writing professionally since 1982. He published his first book in 1996 and is a frequent contributor to many online publications, specializing in consumer, business and technical topics. Locsin holds a Bachelor of Arts in scientific and technical communications from the University of Washington.