Behavioral health technicians (BHTs) are unsung heroes of military mental health care teams. These enlisted service members are trained to be “provider-extenders” who support a range of mental health services including intake interviews, triage, psychoeducation, mental health screenings, outreach to commands, and administrative management. BHTs’ specific duties vary based on their service, clinic and supervisor.
When they’re used effectively, BHTs serve a vital role in direct patient care and clinic operations. The Psychological Health Center of Excellence (PHCoE) stood up the Behavioral Health Technician Work Group (BHTWG) in 2017 to improve and standardize BHT utilization and serve an integrating function for BHTs across the services.
Over the past year, the BHTWG has made great strides in identifying ways to optimize technician usage and positively impact warfighters’ quality of care. The group, composed of providers and technicians from each service, met regularly to share knowledge, resources, and efforts to support active duty BHTs.
In May, team members visited the Medical Education and Training Campus (METC) in San Antonio, Texas, to kick off a BHT training, policy, and curriculum review. The subsequent report, “Understanding Behavioral Health Technicians within the Military: A Review of Training, Practice, and Professional Development” will be released to the public soon. The site visit, review, and report are also helping to shape an ongoing RAND study. The study will include data from surveys of providers and technicians in the field that will be distributed later this year.
To disseminate information about BHTs to military providers, the BHTWG initiated a collaborative effort with the Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP) to develop a web-based continuing education training for Military Health System providers on BHT training, capacity, and optimal role integration. The group is also working to create an online Joint Service BHT training resource repository to provide technicians with valuable guidance and training resources in a one-stop-shop. Additionally, the team drafted a Healthcare Provider’s Practice Guide for the Utilization of Behavioral Health Technicians that will be released to the field this spring. The guide 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.
In 2019, the BHTWG will continue to identify technician-related opportunities, develop resources to share with the career field, and disseminate knowledge in support of the BHT profession. To receive the RAND report and BHTWG provider guide when they’re available, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you have suggestions for areas that need to be addressed or ways in which the BHTWG can support your work, please comment below!
Tech. Sgt. Bradley Blair is an Air Force certified alcohol and drug abuse counselor (CADC) and the mental health technician subject matter expert (SME) at the Psychological Health Center of Excellence. He holds a bachelor’s degree in social psychology.
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.