Behavioral Health Technicians in the Military

Photo courtesy of Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Sarah Pacquette

The Psychological Health Center of Excellence (PHCoE) is working to improve patient care and clinical operations by disseminating best practices of utilizing behavioral health technicians (BHTs) across the services.

Behavioral health technicians — also called mental health technicians, psychiatric technicians, or behavioral health specialists — are enlisted service members who fulfill a wide range of tasks to support mental health providers in the Military Health System. BHTs’ specific duties vary based on clinic, supervisor, and service and can include everything from conducting intake interviews and mental health screenings to triaging emergent patients to carrying out administrative tasks. When used effectively, BHTs serve a vital role in enhancing clinic efficacy and efficiency and improving direct patient care.

Tools

PHCoE’s Healthcare Provider’s Practice Guide for the Utilization of Behavioral Health Technicians provides clinicians with a thorough understanding of technician training and competencies and highlights technician utilization best practices and the positive impact they can have on access to care, provider workload, and quality of care for service members and their dependents.


PHCoE asked the RAND Corporation to assess the current functional operation and utilization of BHTs. The report Understanding Behavioral Health Technicians Within the Military provides insights on selection, training, roles, and responsibilities of BHTs, and findings which suggest a need to better understand how factors such as setting, supervisor preferences, and availability of ongoing training affect BHT roles.

Behavioral Health Technician Work Group

In 2017, PHCoE established the Behavioral Health Technician Work Group. The work group is made up of clinician and technician leaders from the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Capital Region Behavioral Health, the Marine Corps Operational Stress Control and Readiness program, and Fleet Marine Force. The group meets regularly to share knowledge, resources, and efforts to support active-duty BHTs. The work group has made great strides in identifying ways to optimize technician usage and improve patient care and clinical operations.

To stay up-to-date on BHTWG activities and be notified of new tools and resources, e-mail the work group at dha.ncr.j-9.mbx.phcoe-bhtwg@mail.mil.