Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are provided in the UK by NHS CAMHS teams and by private service providers who often work with other professionals in similar teams.

Who works in a CAMHS team?
Psychiatrists (medical doctors with training in child and family mental health), Psychologists, Nurses, Social Workers, Occupational Therapists, Family Therapists, Play Therapists and Analytic Child Psychotherapists. All these people may meet and speak together about how best to help patients they look after.

What can they help with?
Professionals who work in CAMHS (CAMHS practitioners) are trained to help with problems that have become too difficult to manage by an individual or in the family or by the school. Some  examples are sadness or anxiety or difficulty coping. Sometimes there is a reason but at other times these problems can come up as if out of the blue.

How do they work?
The first meeting. You get referred or self refer in some services, to see a CAMHS practitioner. They offer an appointment, usually to the family, at which introductions are made and the person you meet finds out about what the problem is. They may also ask questions about your family, your early story (from birth, through nursery, school years etc). They often explain to you what they think is going on and what solutions and treatments could be on offer after the first meeting. This is an assessment appointment and it is a “talking appointment”.
Treatment and follow-up. You may be asked to return for some further appointments. These will also be mainly “talking appointments”.

These may be:

  • individual (one to one) or
  • for the whole family together, or
  • for you to come to join a group of other patients for some regular appointments

Sometimes play therapy or art therapy is used when talking is difficult. Some family appointments have two CAMHS practitioners in the room with you (or even more, but then they would sit behind a one way screen so they do not distract you).
If you have a condition which requires prescribed medication, then you will probably see a medical doctor who will explain to you what treatment and investigations are required.
Alternatively you may be given information about where else you might find help.
The appointments usually last for up to one hour. They can be weekly, fortnightly , monthly or even less frequent. Rarely you may be asked to come more than once in a week. There will often be some forms to fill in but rarely blood tests or other physical tests.
Ending when you have decided that you no longer need the help offered because the problem has gone away or it has become managable you can tell your practitioner. Sometimes the CAMHS practitioner helps you make the decision to end treatment when it is no longer needed or no longer helpful.

Who will they tell I have been?
Although all these people may meet and speak together about how best to help patients they look after, they are bound by “CONFIDENTIALITY”. This means they should not speak about you or share your information with anyone else outside the NHS organisation they work for and even then only with your best interests in mind. In the private sector your CAMHS practitioner should ask you about sharing your information with anyone else, even with your GP (family doctor). Different professional groups have their standards set differently . Medical doctors in the UK have standards regulated by the General Medical Council.
Your information should be stored so that no-one else has access to it. It will usually be destroyed (shredded) after a period of time.
The exception to this is if the professional you see is seriously worried that your life or the life of someone else is at risk or if there is abuse going on from which someone, usually you, needs protection. They would then ideally speak with you first about what it is they are worried about and who they need to contact.
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