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.
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.
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.
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:
- You don't get on with your therapist or others in your care team
- You're not getting enough support
- You don't agree with the treatment and support you're getting
- You don't like the type of treatment and support you're getting
- You're struggling with the way your appointments work
- Your cultural, religious or specific needs aren't being met
- You don't feel your voice is being heard
- You're experiencing discrimination
- CAMHS have stopped supporting you too soon
- You don't know what's happening when you're leaving CAMHS
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.
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.
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.
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.
If talking to your CAMHS team about your problem doesn't help, you can make a complaint.
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.
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.
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
These are services that support young people with their mental health.
You might see them called different names sometimes, but they offer the same type of services for young people:
- In Wales, they're called Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (SCAMHS)
- In England or Wales, you might also hear them called Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS)
Find out more in our CAMHS information hub.
Discrimination is when someone treats you differently or unfairly because of:
- Your age
- Your disability
- Your gender
- Your gender identity
- Your sexuality
- Your relationship status
- Your religion or beliefs
- Your race, skin colour or where you were born
- Being pregnant or having a child
In the UK, a law called the Equality Act protects you from discrimination.
The Equality Act says you have a disability if you have a physical or mental health problem that has a substantial, negative, and long-term effect on your day-to-day life.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
The name for a plan that explains your mental health problem, what treatment and support you need, and who will provide that support. Care plans might also cover what should happen if you're in a mental health crisis.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
Confidentiality is about keeping your information private.
It means that when you talk to professionals they shouldn’t tell anyone else what you’ve said.
They will only share what you tell them in certain situations. For example, if you ask them to or if they’re worried that you or someone else could be in danger.
See our page on confidentiality for more information.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
This is your main point of contact if you’re having ongoing treatment and support for your mental health. They should keep in close contact with you and answer any questions you may have.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
These are the people look after you when you're getting treatment and support for your mental health problem. Your care team might include nurses, doctors and therapists.
They may look after you in hospital, support you through Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), or look after you at home.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
Care and Treatment Plan (CTP)
This a support package provided by the NHS for people in Wales who have a mental health problem.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
This is a trained professional who runs or supervises your therapy. Therapists help you explore how you’re thinking, feeling and behaving, and what can help you in the future.
There are different types of training and education for therapists. This means they all have different titles, like psychologist, therapist, counsellor or psychiatrist.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
This is a medical doctor that specialises in mental health (psychiatry). Psychiatrists can:
- carry out assessments
- decide with you which treatments to try, including medication
- be your therapist for a treatment, like group therapy.
Equality Act 2010
This is the law that protects you from discrimination and gives you the right to challenge it.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
An advocate is someone who can listen to you and help make sure your voice is heard in decisions about you.
In some situations, you will have a right to have an advocate. This is called statutory advocacy.
Even if you don’t have a right to an advocate, there are other types of advocacy that can support you to get your voice heard.
See our page on advocacy for more information.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
Or local council. This is the group of people responsible for certain services in your area, like social care and education.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
This is any information that can be used to identify you. For example, your name, address or even your IP address.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
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.