Behavioral health technician: What is it? How do I become one?

Are you interested in a career working with special needs or autistic children? A career as a behavioral health technician may be a good fit for you!

As a Michigan State University Extension board member to the South East Michigan Area Health Education Center, I wanted to share an exciting opportunity to develop workforce skills in a growing field in the health care industry: behavioral health technician.

What is a behavioral health technician?
They help doctors, nurses and other mental health professionals with the treatment of patients who have various behavioral problems, developmental disorders or mental illness. As a behavioral health technician, you will work directly with the patient to implement the treatment plan prescribed.

The position involves assisting patients with activities of daily living and self-care. In order to improve patient’s skills, the technician provides a supportive environment by encouraging positive behaviors and discouraging negative behaviors. Reporting and recording patient’s progress with various interventions is also an important part of the job. Employment for these paraprofessionals can be found in many settings including hospitals, shelters, mental health facilities, schools and even patient’s homes.

What is the job outlook?
There is an increasing demand for paraprofessionals who are trained to provide direct service to individuals with autism and related disabilities. According to the Center for Disease Control, one in 68 children in the United States have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which is a 30 increase (1:88) in the past two years. Last year, more children were diagnosed with ASD than people with cancer or heart disease.

How do I become a behavior health technician?
To meet this growing demand, the Behavioral Analyst Certification Board has developed standards for their newest credential, Registered Behavior Technician (RBT). With this new credential, both employers and employees can benefit. Employers can take advantage of third-party insurance billing and employees are more marketable. Training for this new credential is coming to southeast Michigan this January for dual-enrolled high school students.

For additional trainings, articles and resources to help young people explore careers, check out the MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development websites.

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