Everyone is different, so the help they need will be different too. At CAMHS, we will work together with you to decide what kind of help is right. Your first visit to see us will help us to learn what kind of support might help.
The length of time that you come to CAMHS can vary from a single visit, to weeks to months.
- Young people, families, and carers can contact CAMHS at any time for advice and support, contact us here
- Families, carers and young people can speak to their GP who can do a referral on their behalf.
Young people have told us that they often feel anxious before their first appointment because they do not know what to expect. This page can help answer questions you may have before coming to a CAMHS service. It’s important you know that you can also ask the CAMHS team questions at this stage and throughout your time spent with CAMHS.
How do I get an appointment at CAMHS?
Usually, after talking it over with you, your general practitioner (GP), teacher or someone who is concerned about your emotional wellbeing will contact CAMHS to ask them to see you. They might write a letter to your local CAMHS team or complete a referral form explaining the reasons why they think it would be helpful for you to be seen. A few clinics will also accept self-referrals, which means that you can contact them directly to make an appointment.
If you’re not sure how to start a conversation with your GP about mental health, try the award-winning Doc Ready app. It can help you plan what to say and create a checklist of things to take so that you don’t get sidetracked.
How long will I have to wait for an appointment?
There can be a wait between the referral being made and your first CAMHS appointment. How long this will be can vary across services but the team will always see you as quickly as they can. To check when your first appointment is likely to be, please phone your local CAMHS service who may be able to provide you with a rough idea of when you are likely to be seen.
Find your local CAMHS service
If you become worried about your safety or the safety of others around you, or you need to be seen in an emergency before your first appointment, you should go directly to your GP or local hospital accident and emergency (A&E) department.
Can I change my appointment?
Yes. If you’re not able to able to attend your appointment please let us know as soon as possible. We can then offer that appointment to someone else and make another appointment for you at a time that is more convenient.
Where will the appointment take place?
Appointments usually take place at your local clinic, but can sometimes happen at other places such as school. We will talk with you about where it’s best to meet.
Who will I meet?
At your first appointment, you will meet one or two of the CAMHS team who will ask you a range of questions that will help them to understand your current difficulties. This is often called an ‘assessment’. If you or your parents are not confident speaking English, they can arrange for an interpreter to be there.
Will my parent(s), carer(s) or family be involved?
At an assessment, young people are seen with their parents or carers and/or by themselves. It can be helpful to have family members involved to get their ideas about what’s going on. They can also help support any changes you might want to make.
However there might be things you want to talk about privately. Read more about privacy further down this page.
What questions will the CAMHS workers ask?
Your first appointment with the CAMHS team is a chance for you to talk to them about what’s happening. It also gives you the opportunity to find out more about them and the service that they provide.
Your CAMHS worker might ask you some questions like the ones below:
- What difficulties are you currently experiencing?
- How long has the problem been around?
- Who’s in your family and how do you all get on?
- What is life like at school and with your friends?
- How has your mood been recently? Have you been feeling low or stressed?
- Are you, or is anyone around you, worried about your safety?
- What were you like when you were growing up?
- What has your life been like so far?
- Which things you are good at and enjoy?
- What would you like to change or achieve by coming to CAMHS?
- What type of help would you prefer?
You don’t have to answer all the questions that they ask and you can also ask them questions.
At the end of your appointment, your CAMHS worker will talk with you about what happens next.
Routine Outcome Measure
Children, young people and/or parent/carers complete comprehensive questionnaires to aid understanding of their difficulties. This will help us understand all family members’ perspective. Depending on your involvement in the sessions, you may be asked to complete session rating scales, symptom trackers or goal trackers. These all aid clinical practice and are optional to complete. Don’t worry if your answers are different from your child’s, this is often the case and should be discussed with the therapist.
These are some (but not all!) of the types of treatments offered at CAMHS (in alphabetical order):
Art therapy helps people to express what they are thinking and how they are feeling through the use of art. Art therapy may help you find out more about yourself, which can lead to positive changes. Also, you don’t need to be good at art to have art therapy!
Child and adolescent psychotherapy
Child and adolescent psychotherapy involves meeting with a specially trained therapist who is focused on children and young people. They have an in-depth understanding of how children develop and relate to their families. Seeing a child and adolescent psychotherapist individually can help people to think about their personal difficulties, by exploring how their feelings and thoughts are connected to their relationships and behaviour, and how past experiences can affect their current relationships.
Meetings can involve thinking and talking together. Child psychotherapists work with children and young people on an individual basis, usually in a weekly session, but they also do short-term work with parents or carers and their children together.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
CBT is a ‘talking therapy’ that focuses on the links between thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It aims to help you manage your feelings and change any thinking or behaviour patterns you have which might be unhelpful and making your problems worse.
In CBT, you are taught to question your thoughts rather than just assume they are true. You might need to do some experiments or investigate a bit to test the thoughts or find out if there are other ways of thinking. You’ll work with your therapist to try and change things for the better. Your therapist will help you to learn how to do the CBT techniques by yourself, and sometimes with the support of your family.
CBT can be quite short in comparison with other talking therapies. It’s likely you will go to one session per week for six sessions and then review to see if you and your therapist think more are necessary.
Family therapy involves working with you and the people who are important to you. In family therapy sessions, you and the people who come with you are encouraged to consider each other’s points of view, experiences and beliefs and find ways to make positive changes that work for everyone involved.
If CAMHS doctors (psychiatrists) think that you can be helped by medication they will discuss this with you and your parents or carers. They will explain why they think medication could help, any possible side-effects, and your other options.
The doctors will also tell you if there are any checks they need to do before you take or while you are taking the medication, how regularly they’ll need to see you at the clinic, and how long you’ll need to take the medication.
You will have the opportunity to ask the doctor any questions you have about taking medication.
As you approach your 18th birthday the professionals at your Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) will begin talking to you about the process of ‘transition’ from their service.
Some people move from CAMHS back to the care of their GP once they turn 18, while others move into adult mental health service (AMHS).
There may be other changes happening in your life at about the same time, and you can talk to CAMHS about these, and explore your next steps and the support available to you.
Please read the Moving On information leaflet (opens PDF) which will talk you through the process of transition, and enable you to take an active role with professionals in planning your transition.
You can leave feedback about how your transition from CAMHS went for you. We welcome this and will help inform our improvements.
We wish you all the best as you transition from CNWL’s CAMHS.
Problems CAMHS works with.
If you still feel a bit unsure about coming to CAMHS, we’ve asked some other young people to tell us what they thought about CAMHS.
How did you feel at first?
Lots of them said they felt a bit nervous or scared at first:
- “Really anxious and scared”
- “Scared – meeting people and having to talk about things”
- “Nervous – didn’t know what to expect, worried negative stigma attached.”
- “Serious, stressed and happy”.
What did coming to CAMHS mean for you?
They had different thoughts about what coming to CAMHS meant for them:
- “Good thing – to get help/ don’t know what to expect.”
- “Final acceptance of the problem.”
- “Felt like going into the unknown.”
- “It was reassuring to know what help was available.”
- “Going to CAMHS doesn’t mean you’re crazy.”
- “The fact that I needed a mental health service made me surprised.”
- “It was like a weight off my shoulders now that I weren’t keeping it all to myself.”
How has CAMHS helped you?
“Having someone to talk to that is not biased or directly involved with your situation and can give a professional and outsider’s prospective.”
“I had a lot of help through all the different people I saw but I found that the type of therapy that I had … helped me recognise what I done, how I felt, how I reacted, and helped me to change these things myself. Rather than looking for alternatives to cope I learnt ways to not get myself to a point where I need something to cope. I learnt how to not get myself into cycles, how to break them. I also found this helped a lot as I wasn’t told what to do, we discussed what I thought a person should do in these situations and applied it all to myself.”
What advice would you give to a young person coming to CAMHS for the first time?
“I would advise someone who was coming to CAHMS for the first time to try and be as open as possible so that the CAHMS staff can get to know you as much as possible and can then provide the best ways in which to help you.”