No license is required; most mental health technicians (aka
psychiatric aides) learn their skills on the job, from experienced
workers or employer-provided classroom instruction. However,
hospitals and nursing care facilities may require previous
experience and/or certification as a nursing assistant (CNA).
The average hourly wage for mental health technicians and
aides employed in Florida was $12.36 in 2009.
Indian River State College
American Psychiatric Association
Mental Health America
Mental health technicians/aides work with emotionally
disturbed or mentally impaired individuals, usually in psychiatric
hospitals or mental health clinics. They work as members of interdisciplinary
teams of mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists,
registered nurses, and others. In general, mental health aides help patients with
personal grooming and participation in educational, recreational,
and therapeutic activities. They may interact with patients and
spend more time with patients than any other team members.
Health Technician/ Aide
Mental health technicians have more formal training
than aides. Technicians participate in both the planning and implementing
of individual patient treatment plans. They may be responsible for
admitting and interviewing patients, record keeping, assisting in
administration of medication, and conducting therapy sessions. Mental
health technicians and aides need to have good observation skills.
They must recognize and report changes in behavior of patients to
other team members. Personal characteristics that are important
for this job are a stable personality, ability to work well with
people and the motivation to help others.
Areas of Specialization
There are a number of opportunities for specialization in a particular
aspect of mental health care. The mental health technician/aide
may specialize in helping mentally disturbed children. Others may
work in drug and alcohol abuse or crisis intervention. Another area
of specialization is working in community mental health. These technicians
may be primarily concerned with parental effectiveness, the elderly,
or problems dealing with interpersonal relationships. With additional
training, they may work with mentally retarded people.
Mental health technicians/aides work in a wide variety of settings
including mental hospitals, community general hospitals, community
mental health centers, psychiatric clinics, schools for mentally
retarded, social service agencies, geriatric nursing homes, child
or adolescent centers, and halfway houses. They generally work a
40-hour week. Because patients need care 24 hours a day, scheduled
work hours may include nights, weekends, and holidays. They will
spend most of their time on their feet. They are sometimes confronted
with violent patients who must be restrained. This may be emotionally
draining, but they may also gain satisfaction from assisting those
The number of mental health aides employed in Florida in 2006 was
2,537. It is projected that in 2014 there will be 2,843. This represents
an annual average growth rate of 1.5 percent.
Length of Training/Requirements
High school courses that would be helpful for this occupation include
psychology, social science, hygiene, art, and music. Post secondary
education is needed to work as a technician and can be obtained
in vocational technical centers and community colleges. The program
includes courses in mental health/illness theory, communication
skills, crisis intervention, psychotropic medications, substance
abuse, and employment skills. The training programs may be one year
or more. Mental health aides must acquire 450 hours of on-the-job
If not supervised directly by clinicians, aides are supervised by
technicians, for whom ascending grade and supervision levels may
exist depending on level of certification and the employing agency.
Additional training will be required for significant advancement.
Many students pursue a four-year college degree in special education,
social work, psychology, and sociology.