Skip to Main Content

Behavioral Health Technicians


The mental health field is relatively young, not fully and formally recognized until the late 1800s and early 1900s. Before then, people with mental health disorders were often treated poorly, with many misdiagnosed as insane and dangerous to society. They were often ignored, neglected, tortured, or locked away in insane asylums, where the mistreatment continued. By the 1800s, hospitals started to provide more support to mental health patients by providing help with hygiene, grooming, and other daily living activities. In 1913, the first mental health clinic in the U.S. was established by Clifford Beers for outpatient treatment. Beers, a Yale graduate who experienced mental health problems, had been committed to a state mental institution in 1902, when he was 26. His experience led to his creation of a mental health society in 1908, with a mission to discuss and correct the abuses to which the mentally ill were subjected. The Clifford Beers Clinic, located in Connecticut, has expanded throughout the past 100-plus years to treat various behavioral and mental health problems.

More therapeutic approaches to mental health treatment were taken starting in the 1940s and 1950s. The benefits of social and recreational activities were recognized and offered to patients as part of new treatment programs. There was also an increase during this time in mental health services offered through hospitals and community mental health organizations rather than strictly through state mental hospitals. In 1963, the Community Mental Health Centers Act was enacted, providing federal funding for the creation of community mental health centers across the U.S.

Since the 1970s, the mental health field has grown, with the establishment of associations for mental health professionals and growth in education and certification programs in mental health specializations. In the 1980s, the American Mental Health Counselor Association established training standards for mental health counselors and related professionals. Since the 1990s, the mental health field has expanded to include more specializations in line with modern mental health problems. Today, behavioral health technicians are called upon to help people with behavioral disorders or problems that may include mental instability, physical or emotional abuse, substance abuse, other addictive behavior such as gambling or impulsive shopping, post-traumatic stress disorder, or hyperactivity, among many others.

Related Professions