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Become A Psychiatric Assistant

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Working As A Psychiatric Assistant

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Getting Information
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Repetitive

  • Stressful

  • $30,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Psychiatric Assistant Do

Psychiatric technicians and aides care for people who have mental illness and developmental disabilities. Technicians typically provide therapeutic care and monitor their patients’ conditions. Aides help patients in their daily activities and ensure a safe, clean environment.

Duties

Psychiatric technicians, sometimes called mental health technicians, typically do the following:

  • Observe patients’ behavior, listen to their concerns, and record their condition
  • Lead patients in therapeutic and recreational activities
  • Give medications and other treatments to patients, following instructions from doctors and other medical professionals
  • Help with admitting and discharging patients
  • Monitor patients’ vital signs, such as their blood pressure
  • Help patients with activities of daily living, including eating and bathing
  • Restrain patients who may become physically violent

Psychiatric aides typically do the following:

  • Monitor patients’ behavior and location in a mental healthcare facility
  • Help patients with their daily living activities, such as bathing and dressing
  • Serve meals and help patients eat
  • Keep facilities clean by doing tasks such as changing bedlinens
  • Participate in group activities, such as playing sports and going on field trips
  • Help transport patients within a hospital or residential care facility
  • Restrain patients who may become physically violent

Many psychiatric technicians and aides work with patients who are severely developmentally disabled and need intensive care. Others work with patients undergoing rehabilitation for drug and alcohol addiction. The work of psychiatric technicians and aides varies with the types of patients they work with.

Psychiatric technicians and aides work as part of a medical team under the direction of physicians and with other team members, who may include psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, social workers, counselors, and therapists. For more information on the counselors and therapists they may work with, see the profiles on substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, rehabilitation counselors, and mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists.

Because they have such close contact with patients, psychiatric technicians and aides can have a great deal of influence on patients’ outlook and treatment.

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How To Become A Psychiatric Assistant

Psychiatric technicians typically need postsecondary education, and aides need at least a high school diploma. Both technicians and aides get on-the-job training.

Education

Psychiatric technicians typically have a postsecondary certificate. Often, they have experience as a nursing assistant or a licensed practical nurse and have completed postsecondary education in nursing.

Some psychiatric technicians also may have a postsecondary certificate or associate’s degree in psychiatric or mental health technology. These programs are offered by community colleges and technical schools and include courses in biology, psychology, and counseling. Psychiatric technician programs may include supervised work experience or cooperative programs, in which students gain academic credit for structured work experience.

Psychiatric aides typically need a high school diploma.

Training

Psychiatric technicians and aides usually have a short period of on-the-job training before they can work without direct supervision.

Training may include working with patients while under the close supervision of an experienced technician or aide. Technicians and aides also may attend workshops, lectures, or inservice training.

Work Experience

Psychiatric technicians typically need clinical experience, which can be gained by working in occupations such as nursing assistant or licensed practical nurse.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Because psychiatric technicians and aides spend much of their time interacting with patients, they should be caring and want to help people.

Interpersonal skills. Psychiatric technicians and aides often provide ongoing care for patients, so they should be able to develop a rapport with them. Gaining such rapport makes psychiatric technicians and aides better able to treat their patients and evaluate their condition.

Observational skills. Technicians must watch patients closely and be sensitive to any changes in behavior. For their safety and that of their patients, they must recognize signs of discomfort or trouble among patients.

Patience. Working with the mentally ill can be emotionally challenging. Psychiatric technicians and aides must be able to stay calm in stressful situations.

Physical stamina. Psychiatric technicians and aides must be able to lift, move, and sometimes restrain patients. They must also be able to spend much of their time on their feet.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states do not license psychiatric technicians. California is one of the larger states that does. For those states which license them, technicians usually are required to complete an accredited education program, pass an exam, and pay a fee to be licensed.

Psychiatric aides are not required to be licensed.

The American Association of Psychiatric Technicians offers four levels of certification for psychiatric technicians. The certifications allow technicians to show a high level of professional competency. Requirements vary by certification.

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Psychiatric Assistant Career Paths

Psychiatric Assistant
Certified Nursing Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse
Registered Nurse Supervisor
7 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Registered Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor
Registered Nurse Case Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Staff Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor
Nursing Director
9 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Technician Registered Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor
Nurse Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Technician Licensed Practical Nurse Team Leader
Unit Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Technician Licensed Practical Nurse Clinical Coordinator
Clinical Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Counselor Therapist Case Manager
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Counselor Clinician Case Manager
Patient Care Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Counselor Team Leader Office Manager
Practice Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Clinician Case Manager Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinician Team Leader Unit Manager
Assistant Director Of Nursing
7 Yearsyrs
Therapist Supervisor Assistant Director
Director Of Admissions
7 Yearsyrs
Therapist Clinical Supervisor Nursing Director
Managed Care Director
9 Yearsyrs
Teacher Instructor Massage Therapist
Lead Therapist
5 Yearsyrs
Teacher Executive Assistant Assistant Property Manager
Resident Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Teacher Administrator Registered Nurse Case Manager
Medical Case Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Security Officer Residential Counselor Therapeutic Support Staff
Residential Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Medical Assistant Patient Care Coordinator Registered Nurse Case Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Worker Residential Supervisor House Manager
Home Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Worker Social Worker Psychotherapist
Health Unit Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Psychiatric Aide 3.5 years
Mental Health Aide 3.0 years
Milieu Therapist 2.6 years
Top Careers Before Psychiatric Assistant
Cashier 10.2%
Internship 8.6%
Volunteer 5.0%
Server 3.4%
Assistant 3.1%
Top Careers After Psychiatric Assistant
Internship 8.7%
Therapist 6.1%
Counselor 5.8%
Clinician 5.2%
Teacher 4.0%

Do you work as a Psychiatric Assistant?

Psychiatric Assistant Demographics

Gender

Female

58.2%

Male

29.6%

Unknown

12.3%
Ethnicity

White

58.9%

Black or African American

15.7%

Hispanic or Latino

14.1%

Asian

7.4%

Unknown

3.8%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

71.4%

Portuguese

4.8%

Khmer

4.8%

German

4.8%

Samoan

4.8%

French

4.8%

Russian

4.8%
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Psychiatric Assistant Education

Schools

University of Central Florida

12.4%

University of Phoenix

9.9%

University of Mississippi

8.7%

Itawamba Community College

6.8%

Millersville University of Pennsylvania

6.2%

Liberty University

5.6%

Ashford University

4.3%

Pennsylvania State University

4.3%

Mississippi State University

4.3%

Jackson State University

4.3%

Alcorn State University

3.7%

University of Southern Mississippi

3.7%

Capella University

3.7%

Hinds Community College

3.1%

New York University

3.1%

California University of Pennsylvania

3.1%

Temple University

3.1%

University of Hawaii at Manoa

3.1%

Jones County Junior College

3.1%

Copiah-Lincoln Community College

3.1%
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Majors

Psychology

29.8%

Nursing

12.5%

Social Work

8.4%

Criminal Justice

6.4%

Counseling Psychology

5.3%

Mental Health Counseling

5.1%

Business

4.5%

School Counseling

3.7%

Clinical Psychology

3.3%

Liberal Arts

2.7%

Human Services

2.5%

Nursing Assistants

2.1%

General Studies

1.8%

Medical Assisting Services

1.8%

Health Care Administration

1.8%

General Education, Specific Areas

1.8%

Education

1.6%

Medicine

1.6%

Family Therapy

1.6%

Kinesiology

1.4%
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Degrees

Bachelors

39.1%

Masters

22.0%

Other

21.3%

Associate

9.6%

Certificate

3.0%

Doctorate

2.7%

Diploma

1.6%

License

0.7%
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Top Skills for A Psychiatric Assistant

  1. Patient Care
  2. Behavioral Issues
  3. Treatment Plans
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Provided patient care and 1:1 support through developed therapeutic relationships.
  • Conduct group therapy sessions for adults and adolescents, document behavior, implement and development treatment plans and behavioral modification
  • Observed individuals for typical and atypical behavior, and provided therapeutic and crisis interventions, followed by required documentation.
  • Provide nursing care for the mentally ill, emotionally disturbed and mentally challenged patients in psychiatric hospital or mental health clinic.
  • Assist with re-establishing independent activities of daily living.

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Top Psychiatric Assistant Employers

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