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What does a Mental Health Technician do?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A mental health technician is a person who has completed training, at minimum, to a certified nursing assistant level. They work with people who are mentally ill, recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, have mental disorders like cognitive impairment, or are in crisis of other sorts. Techs work in a variety of venues that can include long-term care facilities, psychiatric hospitals, addiction treatment facilities, standard hospitals, nursing homes and possibly schools for people with impairment. They may also be called psychiatric techs, mental health aides, or psychiatric aides.

Generally, the mental health tech is part of a team that can include doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, and nurses. In many hospitals, techs often directly answer to nurses. They may also report to other members of the health care team, especially to allied health professionals like occupational or standard therapists.

Much of the work of many mental health technician jobs involves direct patient care. This might mean helping patients with self-care, like grooming or bathing, or helping a patient get settled in a hospital by inspecting their items for anything dangerous, and helping them make up a bed and put away their things. It also often means that the technician is watching, observing and interacting with patients regularly. These observations are very important, because they form a part of how care is determined for each patient, and they help to keep patients safe, especially those at high risk for harmful behavior to self or to others. It is sometimes necessary for a mental health technician, especially in a psychiatric hospital, to subdue patients that become upset or potentially harmful, and watchfulness is key to being certain that this occurs quickly so patients don’t harm themselves or others.

Other work that a mental health tech can perform includes many types of detail-oriented jobs. Techs might be in charge of admitting patients, taking phone calls, staffing a main desk, or helping to keep records. In some cases, they may administer medication or help nurses to do so. They may also work with patients in designated groups to do certain types of activities. These could include things like art, exercise, or therapy. Alternately, they may take part in these groups and assist those that are running them by remaining vigilant and simply lending an extra hand to the person running the group and patients participating in it.

Mental health technician jobs are often physically challenging jobs and require hours of “on the feet” work. The majority of jobs in this field are full time, and since many of the facilities at which a tech might work are open all of the time, techs may expect to work weekends and holidays, at least on occasion. Many of the venues in which techs work are also open 24 hours a day, so people may be required to work various shifts. Length of the average day may be 8-12 hours depending upon how shifts are organized.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon345885 — On Aug 23, 2013

How much do MHT's make?

By anon333887 — On May 08, 2013

Is it hard to become an MHT? Just a random thought.

By anon247874 — On Feb 15, 2012

Mental health techs are not always trained to the "level" of a CNA. We are not CNAs. Our training is often very different. A CNA off of a medical floor could not do our job, nor we theirs.

By Sara84 — On Apr 28, 2011

Can I get mental health technician training on the job, or do I have to go to classes at a college?

By meandcoffee — On Apr 25, 2011

My wife is an ER nurse and is thinking about transferring to the hospital's mental health unit. As a mental health nurse, she would get to work one-on-one with the mental health patients.

She knows it will be a job that will make her tired, and she will be working with the whole mental health team, along with the technicians. She says it really takes everyone on the team for a mental health unit to run like it should.

She is ready for a big change and going to the mental health unit will definitely do that. She will be working long nights, but it will be worth it.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor...
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