Behavioral Health Technician Research Update: Current Findings and Next Steps

U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell
By Jenelle Anthony, Psy.D.
November 12, 2019

You’ve likely read some of our earlier Clinician’s Corner blogs about military behavioral health technicians and you may have wondered if there’s any research on the topic. The answer is now “Yes!” RAND Corporation recently released a new study, Understanding Behavioral Health Technicians within the Military: A Review of Training, Practice, and Professional Development. This collaborative effort between the Psychological Health Center of Excellence Behavioral Health Technician Work Group (BHTWG) and RAND evaluated how behavioral health technicians function and are utilized in the Military Health System and yielded recommendations for optimizing their use.

Before you check out the RAND report in full, here’s a quick preview of some of the highlights:

Findings:

  • Behavioral health technician training is intense, with a large number of topics taught in a relatively short timeframe
  • The current process for screening and selecting behavioral health technician candidates presents opportunity for improvement
  • Behavioral health technicians don’t always get to use the full range of their skills and capabilities once in the workforce
  • Vital behavioral health technician on-the-job training and supervision is not standardized

Recommendations:

  • Align consistent selection criteria with behavioral health technician job duties and assess characteristics key to behavioral health work (e.g., interpersonal skills) to maximize goodness of fit
  • Focus behavioral health technician work on core evidence-based practices, skills for deployment/other settings, military population and mission needs, and common psychological concerns
  • Train health care personnel on behavioral health technician roles and capabilities
  • Use best practices common to civilian medical settings to utilize behavioral health technicians (e.g., health-coach type roles, provider-technician paired team model)
  • Use formal guidelines for behavioral health technician on-the-job training and supervision

Be sure to read the full RAND report for a deeper dive into this behavioral health technician research. If you’re short on time, read the RAND blog, Review of Behavioral Health Technician Training, Policies, and Practice Identifies New Opportunities.

And stay tuned because there’s more behavioral health technician research on the horizon. The next step in the RAND-BHTWG collaboration will include surveying providers and behavioral health technicians in the field by early 2020.

To stay up-to-date on the BHTWG or request access to our MAX.gov website, send an e-mail to dha.ncr.j-9.mbx.phcoe-bhtwg@mail.mil.

Dr. Anthony is a contracted clinical psychologist and evidence-based practice subject matter expert at the Psychological Health Center of Excellence. She specializes in treatment of serious mental illness and the consequences of traumatic exposure and is a member of the Behavioral Health Technicians Work Group.


The views expressed in Clinician's Corner blogs are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Psychological Health Center of Excellence or Department of Defense.


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