Meeting staff at CAMHS
You might meet lots of different professionals while you're getting support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS, or SCAMHS in Wales).
Everyone is trained to a high level, and should be welcoming and non-judgemental. Who you meet will depend on what you need help with and who can best support you.
Because the professionals who work at CAMHS support lots of young people, you might have to wait a long time to see certain staff.
Healing mentally won't happen straight away, it is a process. However, CAMHS do try and support you as much as they can throughout this journey.
At CAMHS, there are trained professionals who run or supervise therapy sessions with you. They help you explore how you're thinking, feeling and behaving, and what can help you in the future.
While there are different job types among people who give you therapy, you might often hear the general term ‘therapist’.
To become a therapist, people can follow different types of training and education. This means they might end up with slightly different titles, like psychologist or counsellor. There are lots of similar things about their roles, but their overall type of work comes under ‘therapy’.
Therapists sometimes focus on using certain techniques. For example:
Therapists do not diagnose mental health problems or prescribe medication.
A psychologist can assess your mental health and help you explore your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. They can give you different types of therapy, like talking therapies.
There are different types of psychologists you might meet, like clinical psychologists or occupational psychologists.
“I had an assessment with the lead psychologist. They spoke to me on my own for an hour, then with me and my mum for an hour.”
An assistant psychologist can support psychologists with things like assessments, taking notes and running support groups. They might also lead a group therapy session with different young people in CAMHS.
You might hear them called students or researchers. They're usually studying or in training to become a type of psychologist.
“Even if you are offered group therapy and you might not think you would like it, try your best to do it because it is really helpful. It is quite scary to start off with, but I found myself eventually looking forward to it because I did make some friends.”
Like psychologists, they can help you to:
- Cope better with your emotions
- Understand the reasons why you feel, think and act the way you do
You might have sessions with a psychotherapist alone, in a group, or with your family or people you live with.
A family therapist works with you and:
- Your family
- The people you live with
- The people closest to you, like guardians or other people who care for you
They might talk with you as a group, as well as individually in some parts of the session.
They can help you all to:
- Discuss difficult things you might be going through together
- Look at ways you might talk to each other and understand each other better
“I started family therapy, but I stopped for several reasons. Someone in my family did not want to engage, and I wasn't happy with my therapist.”
A creative therapist uses arts to help you to express your thoughts and feelings, like:
- Drawing or painting
- Playing games
You might hear them called art therapists.
A counsellor is trained to listen to you and give you a safe space to explore how you're thinking, feeling and behaving. They also help you find ways to cope with difficult things.
Counselling is a type of talking therapy. CAMHS might offer you short-term counselling to help with a specific problem you're experiencing right now. For example, you might have sessions with a counsellor if you've recently lost someone close to you.
Don't worry if you're finding it hard to remember the names of the roles and what each person does. There can be a lot of overlap between jobs. Psychologists and psychotherapists might just have a different background in their training or education for example.
I had 1-on-1 CBT sessions where I was taught techniques to help with my anxiety and low self-esteem.
You might meet other types of health professionals at CAMHS who do not give you therapy. Some of these people focus on things to do with your physical health, as well as managing mental health diagnoses.
Their work doesn't usually involve exploring your thoughts and feelings.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specialises in mental health. This type of work is called psychiatry.
Psychiatrists can diagnose you with a mental health problem. They might manage your treatment, or they might refer you to someone else. For example, if you try CBT but it's not working, you might talk to your psychiatrist about trying something different.
They can advise you on which treatments you should try, like types of medication. They can also prescribe you medication. Find more information about medication on the YoungMinds website.
You might hear them called consultants or consultant psychiatrists.
A speech and language therapist helps with your communication and talking skills, or with eating, drinking and swallowing.
After your first appointment with them, they should create a plan to help you and other people in your life, like teachers or the people you live with.
A nurse at CAMHS is trained in mental and physical health. They can monitor your mental and physical health and carry out physical health checks. They can give you medication like an injection or a pill, but do not prescribe the medication.
They normally work in hospitals, but you might meet them elsewhere, like at home or at CAMHS.
You might hear them called:
- Community psychiatric nurses (CPNs)
- Psychiatric nurses
- Mental health nurses
A crisis team is made up of professionals who can support you if you need urgent help for your mental health outside of hospital. They might visit you at home, at school or at your GP surgery. Urgent help could mean that you're:
- Feeling overwhelmed with your mental health
- Feeling like you want to hurt yourself
- Experiencing suicidal thoughts
The person in charge of your care at CAMHS should have told you how to contact the crisis team. If not, it's a good idea to ask about this when you're feeling well. If you don't have their contact details, you should be able to find a phone number on your local CAMHS website.
You might hear it called a crisis resolution and home treatment team (CRHT or CRHTT). Or you might find that your local service is called something different.
Remember: in an emergency, you can call 999 and ask for an ambulance, or go to Accident and Emergency at your nearest hospital.
“After a suicide attempt, I was seen by the crisis team, who then further visited me at school. This was January 2020. In March 2020, I had my first therapy appointment to help me cope with anxiety and depression.”
Some people who work at CAMHS or with CAMHS are not health professionals. Instead of supporting your mental and physical wellbeing, they look after the details of your care. These people are responsible for things like:
- Managing or organising your care and treatment schedule
- Making sure you're getting the support you need
- Helping you plan for leaving CAMHS
A social worker is trained to give extra support to you and the people who look after you, like your family or guardians. A big part of their job is to help keep you safe.
There are different types of social workers:
- Some might help if you're in care or at risk of being abused
- Some are trained to support young people with mental health problems
- Some might work with you, and the people you live with, if you're going through something difficult in your home life
A care co-ordinator should be your main point of contact if you're getting treatment and support at CAMHS. They should keep in close contact with you and answer any questions you may have.
Your care co-ordinator at CAMHS might be the same person who you've met in other roles, like a:
In Wales, you might also hear them called a care and treatment plan co-ordinator.
If you live in England and you're leaving CAMHS, your care co-ordinator should also be able to answer your questions about leaving CAMHS and possibly moving to Adult Mental Health Services (AMHS). If you live in Wales, there is a separate role for this, called a transition worker.
For more information, see our page on leaving CAMHS.
If you live in Wales and you're leaving CAMHS to move on to Adult Mental Health Services (AMHS), you should have a transition worker.
A transition worker manages and supports your move to AMHS. This should include helping you put together a ‘Young Person's Transition Passport'.
Find a passport template example and read more information about sharing your experiences in a Transition Passport.
An administrator or receptionist might be the first person you speak to on the phone or meet at CAMHS. They can help you with practical things like:
- Organising or changing your appointments
- Asking about waiting times
- Sending a message to the person who manages your care
They should also help you with any questions you have, or put you in touch with someone in the service who can help.
You may feel that you really should not be there… But they are there to help you and to enable you to leave feeling better supported to tackle the future.
You might meet people in CAMHS who we've not mentioned here, or whose roles are a bit different from what we've described.
Depending on the reason you're getting support, you might also work with some more specialist staff. For example, if you're at CAMHS because of eating problems or your relationship with food, you might also see a dietitian. They give advice on food and diet.
If you're unsure what members of staff do or how they can help you, it's okay to ask them. You can always speak to other trusted adults to help you understand who does what.
What might happen next?
During your time at CAMHS, you might have problems with the people who work there. Find out about things that might not go the way they should
If your time with the service is already coming to an end, you can find out about what to expect when leaving CAMHS.
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.
This is treatment that aims to help improve your mental health and wellbeing. There are lots of different types of therapies. Here are some commons ones you might have heard of:
- talking therapies
- creative therapies
- ecotherapy (being in or around nature)
- medication (also called drug therapy).
Counsellors listen to you and give you a safe space to explore how you’re thinking, feeling and behaving. They also help you find ways to cope with things.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)
This means using arts (music, drawing, painting, dancing, drama) or playing games to express your thoughts and feelings.
It can also mean doing creative activities to improve your wellbeing and confidence. For example, writing or acting out stories with other young people.
You might take part in creative therapies in a group, or by yourself.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
These involve talking with a professional about your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. There are many types of talking therapies, such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). You usually take part for an agreed length of time and number of sessions.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
This means being part of a group of young people who attend therapy sessions together. It can be helpful as some problems are better understood with other people. For example, anger, self-esteem or anxiety.
You might attend group therapy as your main therapy. Or you might have treatment and support on your own as well.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
- talk through a problem or situation that is negatively affecting your mental health
- recognise how it affects you
- work out positive coping strategies or ways to make the situation better.
It may be face-to-face, over the phone or over video call.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
This is a request to a service asking them to review:
- how you’re feeling
- what support you need.
The referral helps explain to the new service why they should see you, and what the best way to help you might be.
Sometimes referrals can be made by yourself, a family member or social worker. But they’re often made by your doctor as they understand your medical history.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
Adult Mental Health Services (AMHS)
These are NHS services that support adults with mental health problems.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
Psychologists help you to explore how you’re thinking, feeling and behaving. There are different types of psychologists, like clinical psychologists or occupational psychologists.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.