What happens At CAMHS?

It can be very helpful to make a note before your first appointment about why you have come to CAMHS.

Useful points to mention include:

  • When the problems started
  • Is there a pattern to the behaviour? Keeping a diary or log book will help here
  • Any difficulties in school
  • Any difficulties with friends
  • Any general health problems, either now or in the child’s early years
  • Any significant events within the family such as divorce or bereavement
  • Contact with other services

You can also write out a list of questions that you might want to ask the CAMHS staff, including:

  • What’s the matter with my child?
  • Is there a diagnosis?
  • What kind of help is available?
  • Is a particular treatment recommended for this type of problem?
  • How does the suggested treatment work?
  • What can I do to help?

If your child doesn’t want to go to their CAMHS appointment, you can ask them to send some information explaining what will happen there. You can attend the appointment yourself and explain that your child does not want to come. In some cases it may be possible for someone to visit your child and talk to them at home.


You, your child and possibly other family members should have at least one meeting where the CAMHS staff find out why you are asking for help and talk about what has happened up to now. If appropriate, your child should have the chance to put their point of view too, and they might not agree with you as to what the problem is.

This initial meeting or series of meetings is known as an assessment.

Following the assessment, the CAMHS staff you have met will say what they think might be causing your child’s difficulties.

They may identify a few different factors which might be affecting your child’s behaviour. If appropriate they may make a diagnosis of a particular mental health condition, such as depression, or a developmental disorder such as autism.

They may tell you by sending a written report, or talk it through with you in a meeting. If there is anything that is said that you don’t understand, it is very important to ask for it to be explained. Your child may or may not attend the meeting based on their age or understanding.

treatment and support

CAMHS should then tell you if they can offer support to your family. If they can't help they should be able to tell you who can, either within the NHS or elsewhere.

If your child is offered help at CAMHS, it may be individual sessions, or with one parent or the whole family. Which type of professional offers the help and how often the sessions are will depend on your child’s needs and the way the service works.

Help may be offered for a limited number of sessions, or for a longer period of time. There are usually reviews after a certain number of sessions, where CAMHS give feedback about how the work is going. Your child may have a treatment plan which sets out what is expected from the work and how long it might go on for.

The CAMHS team may tell you when they think your child’s treatment should end, but they should take into account the feelings and opinions of parents and carers and also those of your child. Ending treatment should happen over an agreed timescale so everyone is prepared.

If your child reaches the upper age limit of the CAMHS service they are involved with, but still needs support, the CAMHS team should ensure they are referred to an appropriate service for adults or older young people. This is called transition to adult services.