behavioral health jobs

How to Start Your Career as Behavioral Health Associate?   

Do you enjoy providing care for other people? Do you aspire to work in a field that significantly improves the lives of those around you? If yes, you might want to choose behavioral health associate career as your preferred choice. A profession in behavioral health associate who are often denoted as mental health has the potential to be both emotionally and financially fulfilling. 

Behavioral health associate support medical doctors in the diagnosis and treatment of mental, behavioral, and numerous developmental issues in individuals. Hence, they are employed by schools, hospitals, mental health facilities, and more.   

Mediating disputes between patients, nurses, and doctors is a significant aspect of this work. Assisting patients with daily tasks, like social programs and hygiene regimens, will be your responsibility. On rare occasions, you may also be asked to lead treatment sessions or assist with interventions. 

To be considered for behavioral health associate, candidates often need to have formal education. Such as a social work or psychology degree. Get practical experience through volunteer work or internships. This will also increase your chances of being hired by a facility that fits your needs.  

What Does a Behavioral Health Associate Do?  

As a behavioral associate, you support medical team members. Plus, you help in the diagnosis and treatment of individuals with mental, developmental, and behavioral conditions. Additionally, to assist patients with their daily activities like self-care and hygiene, and participating in administering prescribed medications by physicians.   

The staff plans and leads program activities, attends treatment rounds, and provides assistance in the physical care of patients. Hence, the behavioral health associate role requires a bachelor's degree in social science or psychology, prior work experience, and certification in basic life support. 

A true behavioral health associate resume outlines a path to becoming a behavioral health associate. So, this guide demonstrates the most typical education, experiences, and skills required to become a behavioral health associate.  

Typical mental health associate positions usually require 2-4 years of experience in related fields. Before someone becomes a mental health associate, they often hold job titles like intern, cashier, or certified nursing assistant. Hiring managers typically expect behavioral health associate to possess soft skills such as communication, emotional, and organizational skills. It usually takes an average of 6-12 months to complete job training and become a behavioral health associate. Plus, obtaining a certification like the Medical Assistant can help one earn a higher salary.  

A bachelor's degree is possessed by 66.0% of mental health associates. Moreover, before becoming a mental health associate, 12.7% had obtained a master's degree. Although most mental health associates have a college degree, it is feasible to become one with only a high school degree. 

Graph on Most common Mental health associate Degrees


A Day in the Life of Behavioral Health Professionals 

For someone starting as a behavioral health associate, every day is unique. Moreover, a typical day looks like for a behavioral health specialist depends on their workplace and expertise. For example, the responsibilities of a counselor in private practice will differ from those of a case manager who works as a social worker.    

In private practice, addiction counselors fill their days with sessions with current patients. Plus, initial consultations with potential new patients. The counselor handles business activities, including taking and analyzing patient notes. In simple terms, finance and marketing are essential tasks for counselors in private practice. So usually, they operate from an office or home. Plus, they have virtual counseling sessions, go to conferences, and study to renew or get state licenses as needed.  

In behavioral health or social services office, a case manager usually works. Their superiors or supervisors give them a caseload. Additionally, they meet with families or individuals to assist them with their behavioral health problems or to provide social services intervention. An example of this is social workers who are responsible for placing children in foster care.   

How To Become a Behavioral Health Assistant  

Now that you have a clearer idea of what your future career will involve, let's talk about how you may get certified as soon as possible.  

  • Obtain A High School Diploma Or GED  

First and foremost, you must earn a high school graduation or the general education diploma (GED) equivalent.  

It's never too late if you currently lack either of them. In just a few months, you can achieve your GED. There should be plenty of opportunities available at your local schools to assist you in getting ready.   

Although it can be a short-term obstacle. Yet, proving your general education is probably required by every trade school you apply to.  

  • Bachelor's degree in behavioral health  

The Bachelor of Science degree program in Behavioral Health Counseling offered by Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, provides students with an understanding of a typical bachelor's degree structure. Additionally, this program equips students with the knowledge and skills necessary for a career in today's mental health and addiction treatment settings. The curriculum includes common courses such as Lifespan human development, foundation of behavioral healthcare, behavior disorders, genetics, and mental health.  

  • Master's degree in behavioral health  

Kent State University in Kent, Ohio offers a Master of Public Health in Social and Behavioral Sciences degree program. Moreover, students gain critical thinking and research skills in this program. Plus, the program's focus includes courses in biostatistics in public health, theories in social and behavioral sciences, concepts in environmental health in public health, and the fundamentals of public health epidemiology.  

  • Associate degree in behavioral health  

An example of an associate's degree program can be located at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona. Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, offers a Master of Public Health in Social and Behavioral Sciences degree program. Here, students gain critical thinking and research skills in this program. Additionally, the program primarily focuses on practical training and service learning. Students in the required courses are introduced to topics such as human relations, group dynamics, addiction and substance disorder, and case report writing. The program also covers other core courses. 

  • Counseling and multicultural settings.  
  • Developmental psychology.  
  • Child and family advocacy.  
  • Therapeutic intervention.  
  • Responsibilities of a behavioral health associate.  

When required and appropriate, apply crisis and/or de-escalation intervention techniques with patients whose behavior cannot be maintained in any other way without them. Assists with the application, removal, and implementation of restraints and seclusion when determined by appropriate personnel, guaranteeing the patient's safety and well-being both physically and psychologically when employing such techniques.  

The treatment team identifies patient characteristics and environmental factors that could lead to agitated behavior and relays this information. Including one-on-one observation and monitoring of assigned patients.  Plus, the nursing staff in charge conduct patient checks and rounds as needed and report observations, interactions, and patient activities. Additionally, the assigned RN or other professional staff communicates clinical matters as required, and the nurse is reported any unusual findings that could impact treatment. Hospital staff escort patients to necessary locations, both within and outside the facility. Staff in behavioral health services monitor and manage the traffic flow of patients, families, and visitors. Behavioral health services perform safety checks for property and clothing before allowing entry.  

Upon admission, they examine and sort the client's things to ensure that they are safely stored until transfer or release. The relevant staff should be alerted to any illicit items so that they may handle them properly.  

  • Engages in therapeutic group interactions.  
  • Attends departmental, team, and staff meetings and contributes.  
  • takes part in special projects, performance improvement, and quality assurance initiatives within the department.  
  • Attends departmental and/or hospital-wide crisis management training; has the ability to lead or co-lead discussion groups on topics including anger management strategies and properly records group activities.  
  • Carries out related tasks and directs patient care as assigned by an RN  
  • Weighs, measures, and records vital signs; notifies changes in vital signs to the registered nurse.  
  • Always exhibits a professional manner and appearance.  

Behavioral Health Career Path Example  

The U.S. is projecting a 25% increase in specialist jobs in the behavioral health field over the next decade, indicating a significant growth. Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2019 to 2029. Factors such as the ongoing Opioid Epidemic, improved access to insurance and care, and a heightened awareness of addiction and mental health in society have contributed to this increase of 79,000 new specialist jobs.  

  • Graduates with a bachelor’s degree and becomes a case worker for a battered women’s shelter.  
  • After two years of being a case worker, a program coordinator position is assumed by them within the same organization.  
  • While in this role, graduate school is attended by the social worker to obtain their MSW (Master of Social Work) degree.  
  • Once their MSW degree is obtained, they are hired as the executive director of a women's shelter.  
  • Four years are spent in the role of an executive director before transitioning to a director position at a homeless shelter for families.  
  • A decade is spent in this position before the decision is made to switch to medical social work.  
  • They become licensed clinical social workers in their state and are employed at a local hospital.  
  • After working as a clinical social worker for six years, a managerial position is moved into, which involves overseeing their former colleagues.  

What Are the Issues Faced by Behavioral Health Associates?  

Behavioral health specialists often observe that individuals suffering from addiction and substance abuse disorder may have other issues. Moreover, patients will mention that a traumatic event or period in their lives caused their problems many times. Whereas these traumas can involve experiences like long-term childhood sexual abuse, one or more instances of rape, family problems, or various other distressing events.  

Behavioral health specialists look out for a variety of mental health problems that can come with an existing condition or addiction. Additionally, many people believe that addicts may use substances to help with other issues they have. These issues might actually be the main reason for their addiction. For example, some people with schizophrenia might use alcohol to calm their thoughts. People with bipolar disorder might use substances to make their high moods stronger or longer, and then use them to reduce their low moods. Many people think that alcohol use temporarily makes them feel better, but in the long run, it only makes them feel worse, often linking it to depression. 

In many cases, when patients have other problems, behavioral health specialists might need to talk to psychiatrists. So, the behavior specialist can send a patient diagnosed with an underlying disorder like bipolar disorder to a psychiatrist who can prescribe medications. When the behavior specialist takes care of the underlying mental health issue, they can then deal with the addiction or other problems.  

Why Do We Need Behavioral Health Specialists?  

In our society, behavioral health specialists play a crucial role. These specialists give individuals a way to work through their emotions and conquer their challenges. This need is especially important when it comes to substance abuse disorders. It's well-known that addicts can cause problems in their families, relationships, and workplaces. In fact, when an addict behaves recklessly, it can trigger a chain of chaos and conflict that spreads throughout society.  

Society needs these behavioral health specialists because they deal with issues that can cause trouble not only for the patient but also for those around them. Problems caused by a person who drinks excessively, for example, can disrupt work and home life. They may also pose a threat to everyone when they drive a car. Similarly, people suffering from depression can create difficulties for their families and colleagues. Depressed individuals can become agitated and may lash out at others. Their inclination to have long periods of sleep can affect their ability to get to work, causing issues for their bosses and co-workers.  

When successful counseling by behavior specialists leads to a client's improved state, it benefits everyone. In the case of addiction, many individuals who have recovered go on to assist other addicts. This enables the healed addict to generate positivity that can be helpful to the entire community, both locally and more broadly. Thus, behavior specialists play a crucial role in their communities. 


As a professional in starting behavioral health associate, where people are passionate about making a difference, you'll often find emotionally and mentally challenging situations. Stressful, ambiguous, and sensitive circumstances are likely to be encountered. At the same time, opportunities will be given to alter the direction of people's lives.


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