Crazy Life: In Praise of MHTs

Mental health technicians, in my humble opinion, really form the backbone of group home and day treatment care of the mentally/emotionally/psychologically-challenged. Much like CNAs (certified nursing assistants), they are “down in the trenches,” so to speak, and fighting alongside the “consumers” (as we are, unfortunately, called) in our daily battles against our illnesses.

mental-health-technician-women-s-t-shirtI found this to be very much the case while living in the Samson (Alabama) Group Home, and marvelled at just how much patience and understanding was required of MHTs. Not that I have a clear and complete picture of MHTs across the state and country (and, I suppose, the world), but my limited experience gives me at least an informed appreciation for the work required in this profession.

At the group home, with which I am familiar, it falls to the MHTs to lead group sessions, to prepare (or help prepare) meals, to dispense medicine (except to “self-medicators”), to mediate disagreements among residents, supervise chores, and so very much more. Indeed, it takes a very special kind of person to be able to do this sort of work, all the while truly caring about the flesh-and-blood human beings they are serving.

Of course, this in no way implies that everything was hunky-dory while in the group home. MHTs are by no means perfect, and I brushed shoulders with some who, quite honestly, needed to find another type of employment. For example, I encountered one young girl ~ young enough to be my daughter ~ who treated us as if we were toddlers. At one time she actually threatened to put one resident in time out as a form of discipline!

Needless to say, MHTs are every bit as human as “consumers,” which means they have their own faults, failings, and shortcomings just like everyone else. There was another MHT that I clearly recall, who took it upon herself to openly, and rather brashly, criticize individuals who received disability benefits… She did this numerous times, dogmatically asserting they didn’t need this income; they ought to be out working, she complained.

Well, believe it or not, all in all she was (and is) an excellent MHT. No, she certainly should have kept her opinions to herself (on the matter of disability benefits, anyway), but being human is being human, and this means that we all sometimes spout off and say things we shouldn’t. Overall, this MHT really did do her work very well …. and residents, in turn, really did (and still do, I presume) respect her.

But I also think of one sweet, little girl ~ and by the way, there were no male MHTs where I was, for some unknown reason ~ who also could have been my daughter. She was very petite and quiet. At such a young age, and being so tender, I really felt as if she’d been thrown to the wolves, in a manner of speaking. Not that residents in the group home are wolves (exactly); she just didn’t have what it took to exercise authority.

And this is, of course, one of the greatest challenges an MHT faces, that is: To exercise at least some modicum of control over the environment and various situations with which they are confronted on a day-to-day basis. After all, if an MHT cannot establish and maintain leadership, then they are very unlikely to be able to accomplish any of their numerous responsibilities. Point in fact, they will get run over, and very quickly at that!

Overall, my experience with MHTs was good, and as time went by I learned to appreciate and respect them more and more deeply. Of course, when I finally decided that I wanted to enter into some form and fashion of counselling (eventually), it did occur to me that I’d have to be able to live up to their examples; after all, counselling entails at least as much pressure … perhaps even more, at least in some ways.


For previous installments in the ‘Crazy Life’ series, see…

Crazy Life: Hanging in the Balance

Crazy Life: Meeting the Mystery of God

Crazy Life: Humiliating the Already-Humbled

Crazy Life: A Little Less Crazy? But Still Guilty

Crazy Life: Dreams and Dreams Again

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Throws and Blows of Dementia

O strength that takes a twisted turn
Burn the mind and bind all sensibility
Vaulted vanity is replaced by insanity
As the adult becomes the wild child
~ No longer meek and mild ~
She seeks the past as present
As if it’ll last ‘n the future is far gone
Fond memories fade as if bade to go
So low have they sunk into oblivion
Dying while trying to live in a fog
And all life has become a thick bog
. . .
And this is one person being caught
In the throws and blows of dementia



Note: Dedicate to all who suffer with this horrid affliction as well as to their dear families and loved ones. May the the Great Physician lead us to a cure soon!

Doc in a Box

He’ll knock you out for a minute or two;
He’s the doc in a box and so very untrue;
No real treatment nor any appeasement,
Just an ‘I can’t help you’ with a pill ‘n bill;
Clinic after clinic ‘n you become a cynic,
And lose your belief you’ll find any relief!
Not even any advice; just a nice farewell;
Oh, but you have to pay for that sad day!
Yes, they’ll take your money with honey
Sweet hands that band together
In no treatment of your ailment;
Yes, this is a doc in a box and sly as a fox;
You leave with no more than dirty socks!
Medical care in America is a rotten snare!