What Do You Really Know About Military Behavioral Health Technicians?

two women talking while looking at a bifold.
Photo courtesy of Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Sarah Pacquette
By Jenelle Anthony, Psy.D
June 10, 2019

In previous blogs, we’ve briefly reviewed the role of military behavioral health technicians (BHTs), also known as psych techs, behavioral health specialists, or mental health service technicians. But what do you, or I, or any provider really know about them? Are they just the person who mans the front desk in the behavioral health clinic? Maybe they also schedule and check-in your patients, take their vital signs, and give them screening measures to complete before a provider appointment? Are they the ones who miraculously keep forms and waiting room brochures stocked in your clinic? Or perhaps they are much, much more?

If you’re like me and have worked with skilled BHTs in a military treatment setting, you already know what a tremendous asset they are in the provision of quality behavioral health care to service members, veterans, and their families. BHTs are valuable members of the treatment team who are able to relate to patients, are often closer to their age, and share their military experience in a way that many providers cannot.

The roles of BHTs vary across different clinics, so even if you’ve seen BHTs in action (and especially if you haven’t), you may still have some questions:

  • What exactly is a BHT and what is their role in military health care?

  • What training do BHTs have and what tasks can they perform?

  • Is there a difference between Army, Air Force, and Navy BHTs?

  • Am I supposed to supervise BHTs in my clinical setting?

  • What does it mean to have a BHT working under my professional license?

  • How can BHTs be used more effectively in my clinical setting?

  • Where can I find answers to all my questions about BHTs?

I have good news for you! Answers to these important questions, and additional valuable information, is available in the new Healthcare Provider’s Practice Guide for the Optimal Utilization of Behavioral Health Technicians.

The provider’s guide is a resource developed by the Behavioral Health Technician Work Group (BHTWG), which was chartered by the Behavioral Health Clinical Community of the Defense Health Agency to increase provider awareness and education of optimal BHT utilization. In the guide, you’ll find information on the background and training of military BHTs, a description of their tasks, duties, and competencies, as well as their optimal role as provider extenders for behavioral healthcare. If you want to know more about BHTs in deployed settings, are interested in tips for supervising BHTs, or want a curriculum for on-the-job training to enhance BHTs’ clinical skills and support deployment readiness, this guide is for you.

You can download the provider’s guide and learn more about the BHTWG on the PHCoE website. 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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