The Mysterious Job of a Psychiatric Technician
Throughout my career as a Licensed Psychiatric Technician, I’ve been asked many times by those outside of the realm of behavioral health, the question, “what exactly does a psych tech do?” When I first joined the Psychiatric Technician education program at a vocational school back in 2006, I had very little understanding of what the duties of an LPT entailed. Had I been asked that question back then, I probably would have responded with an answer as generic as, ‘caring for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled’, or ‘supporting the emotionally distressed.’ Now, having been licensed and practicing for 10 years and having worked in a broad range of treatment settings, I can attest that the role of a psych tech is as expansive as it is specialized. By expansive, I mean that the role of the psych tech isn’t limited to just a psych hospital setting, but can include corrections facilities, in-patient and outpatient clinics, substance abuse treatment centers, and even telehealth and telepsych systems. By specialized, I mean that the psych tech’s skillset and training is so specific and valuable, that there are certain duties within some clinical settings that only the psych tech can perform. It is truly a specialized role that has reached the far ends of the behavioral health spectrum.
My first job as a psych tech was in a dual-diagnosis unit at a privately-owned psych facility in Long Beach, CA. There, I learned medication management and quickly became accustomed to the dynamics of substance abuse and mental illness. I transitioned to Metropolitan State Hospital where I remained for the next 6 years. I started on the admissions unit, working alongside RNs and Psychiatrists in transitioning individuals from a jail setting to a forensic hospital setting, and guaranteeing that the balance between penal-code parameters and hospital treatment was kept. I became the shift leader for the PM schedule, ensuring a crew of 8 staff members efficiently facilitated a unit of 52 individuals. I then became the Enduring Psych Tech for another unit of 52 individuals, working within the interdisciplinary treatment team in proving that all aspects of the individuals’ treatment were being met. During my last year at Metropolitan State Hospital, I worked at the Central Staffing Office where I witnessed the complexity of keeping a hospital fully staffed to acuity while managing the challenges of staff shortages. Currently, I work in the Medication Assisted Treatment team of Drug and Alcohol Services for the county of San Luis Obispo. The MAT team provides medication-related treatment to individuals with opiate and alcohol addiction. I also work with off-site physicians in providing treatment through our telemedicine system.
My hope is that I can use my broad range of experiences as a psych tech to shed new light onto what a psych tech is capable of. I would love to expand the understanding of those whose impression of a psych tech are limited to the state hospital setting, and of those who are newly exploring a career as a psych tech. I would love to provide knowledge and insight from an angle that perhaps isn’t normally considered. With the rising opiate epidemic, substance abuse is a problem that I believe needs to be more readily addressed. I believe that my experience in these fields can help us come up with more realistic solutions.