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Problems I might face at CAMHS – for 11-18 year olds

A guide for young people on what fair treatment should look like at CAMHS. It also explains what to do if things aren't going the way they should.

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg. This link will take you to a Welsh translation of this page.

What happens if I have problems at CAMHS?

Sometimes your experience at CAMHS doesn't go the way you'd expect it to, or would want it to. But if you have a problem with your treatment and support, there are things you can do to help.

This information is for you if you're already getting treatment and support from CAMHS.

More about CAMHS

If you're looking to get support from CAMHS or you're waiting for their help, see our pages on:

You have the right to be told directly about support and what you should expect. To be more direct, you shouldn't be afraid to ask questions.

How should CAMHS treat me?

Your mental health support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS, or SCAMHS in Wales) might depend on where you live, and what you're feeling and experiencing.

But whatever you're getting support for, you should always expect CAMHS to treat you fairly. They should:

  • Treat you with respect
  • Not discriminate against you
  • Give you information about what they can offer and how they can support you
  • Let you make choices and be involved in decisions about your treatment and support
  • Listen to your views, especially the staff who work at CAMHS
  • Allow you to ask questions about your treatment and support
  • Tell you how you can complain about your treatment and support
  • Help you plan your care, which you might hear called a care plan, in a way that works best for you
  • Keep your personal information confidential

If you're receiving support from CAMHS, your support should normally follow the Care Programme Approach (CPA).

This means you should have:

With the CPA, your support should only end when your care team believe you no longer need it. They should always try and agree this with you.

You might not know if your support follows the CPA, or you might not have a written copy of your care plan. If so, speak to someone in your CAMHS team.

If you're receiving support from Welsh SCAMHS, you should have:

Your CTP should only end when your care team believe you no longer need support. They should always try and agree this with you.

If you don't know anything about your CTP, or haven't been given a written copy of it, you should speak to someone in your CAMHS team.

Understanding your mental health rights and the law

Learn about your rights

What problems could I face?

Not everyone has a problem with their treatment and support from CAMHS. But some things might not go the way you feel they should.

You might experience problems like:

No matter what the problem is, you're not alone and you deserve support.

I didn't know at the time that I could change my therapist. I didn't know what to do, as my parents liked my therapist.

What can I do if I'm not happy with something?

If you're not happy with your experience at CAMHS, you should first try to speak to your team to tell them what you need. This might be something like asking for a different therapist, or telling them you don't think your current treatment is working.

If you don't feel comfortable talking to CAMHS staff, you could ask a trusted adult like a parent, carer, guardian or teacher to help you. You could also ask for support from an advocate.

To help with your problem, you might have to ask for things like:

  • Support that meets your cultural, religious or practical needs
  • An interpreter for another language, if you or a parent or carer needs one
  • Working with someone of a different gender
  • More information on something you don't understand
  • Different ways to contact CAMHS, like emailing instead of talking on the phone
  • Changing your appointment type, like meeting in person instead of online

It depended a lot for me on whether I got along with the psychologist. We didn't establish the same relationship in sessions using video calls.

To help you prepare for this conversation, you could think about:

  • The problem you're facing
  • How the problem affects you
  • Why you would like things to be different
  • How you would like things to change
  • How CAMHS can help change things

Once you've prepared what you'd like to say, you could talk to the person in charge of your care. This could be your care co-ordinator, psychiatrist or therapist. You can do this face-to-face, by phone, email or letter. If you can't get in touch with them, you could ask reception staff to pass on your message.

Remember: it's okay to ask for what you need. You deserve to get help in a way that works for you. By working with your CAMHS team to fix any problems, you can get the most out of your treatment and support.

I asked to have no CBT, but was given a case worker who specialises in CBT. I felt very dismissed at that time.


Over time, you might try different types of treatment and support. You'll probably like some of them more than others, and that's okay. Not every treatment works for everyone.

You have the right to ask for something different.

What can I do if I experience discrimination?

The Equality Act is a law that protects you from discrimination and gives you the right to challenge it. Unfair treatment in mental health services because of your race, gender, disability, or being LGBTQIA+ could be discrimination.

If you think you've experienced discrimination, you could first try talking to someone at CAMHS. If they don't listen to you or support you, you could make a formal complaint. An advocate could help you with both informal and formal complaints.

If you've tried these things and nothing has helped, you might want to speak to a solicitor. They can talk you through your options and tell you if you could take legal action against CAMHS. For more information about finding a solicitor, visit the Law Society website.

Some of the young people we spoke to experienced discrimination in different ways:

My psychologist sympathised heavily with my mum and believed that me being queer was unfair to my parents. If I was aware of how to deal with problems at CAMHS at the time, I would've felt more empowered to speak out about this and ask for a different psychologist.

When I left school, my problems with CAMHS got worse. But I knew my worth and what I deserve. I complained and got a new therapist with no culture clashes. Professionals realised they needed to listen to me.

Going through an experience of discrimination can feel really difficult. As well as reporting it, try sharing your feelings with people you trust and finding ways to look after yourself.

For self-care tips, see our pages on looking after your wellbeing and understanding your feelings.

Who else can help me with problems at CAMHS?

You might feel really upset if you experience problems during your time with CAMHS. You're not alone and other people can support you, like:

  • Your parents, carers, guardians, other family members or people you live with
  • Trusted adults, like teachers or youth workers
  • Your friends or partners
  • Your doctor, or other CAMHS staff who aren't involved with your problem

They might be able to support you by:

  • Discussing the problem with you
  • Helping you figure out what to say
  • Going to appointments with you
  • Writing letters for you

You can find other places that can help in our list of useful contacts.

Getting help from an advocate

Advocates can help you speak up about the things that are important to you.

How to complain to CAMHS

If talking to your CAMHS team about your problem doesn't help, you can make a complaint.

You can ask someone in administration about how to do this, like a receptionist. They might ask you to write a letter or fill in a form.

Before you do this, try to think about the problem you're experiencing and write down your thoughts. You could ask yourself:

  • What has worked well for me at CAMHS so far?
  • What is the problem I'm facing?
  • In what ways does this problem affect me?
  • Why would I like things to be different?
  • What changes would I like to see?
  • How can CAMHS help change things?

You might feel uncomfortable about making a complaint, or worry about what will happen. Making a complaint won't stop you from getting help – it should make your treatment and support better for you.

But making a complaint can feel like a hard process to go through. Especially if you're not feeling well, or you're coping with difficult feelings from the way CAMHS have treated you. You might want to ask a trusted adult or an advocate to help and support you through it.

You are not a burden. It takes a lot to ask and keep asking. It's not a straightforward process and everything takes a lot of unravelling.

How to write a complaint

If you don't feel okay about sharing your problem face-to-face, you can write an email or letter.

If you're in contact with the person in your care, you can send it to them. You can also send it to administration staff, like a receptionist, or get a trusted adult to do this for you.

Try using our tips for writing complaints:

  • Be as specific as you can with the information. Try to include important dates and names of people you've tried speaking to about your problem.
  • If you're finding it hard to write, get a trusted friend or adult to write it with you or read it through.
  • Include any relevant copies of letters or emails you've got about your complaint or problem.
  • It can feel upsetting writing down what's happened – it's important to be kind to yourself and take a break if you need to.

Template email or letter complaint

Try using our draft template to help you explain the problem you're experiencing and what you'd like to happen:

Experiencing discrimination, problems, or having to complain can feel hard. You might find it helpful to read on our pages about looking after your wellbeing and understanding your feelings.

Find out more about what happens at CAMHS

Back to CAMHS information hub

This information was published in December 2022. We will revise it in 2025.

The quotes on this page are from young people we spoke to while making this information. They've given us their consent to use their quotes in our information. The words, experiences and opinions in the quotes are not related to the young people shown in any of the photographs we use.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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