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Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

A CAMHS team meeting at Alder HeyEveryone who works in Alder Hey CAMHS has chosen to join the service to help, support and enable children, young people and families to make the most out of their lives.  We are all committed to easing suffering and distress and promoting well-being, building on strengths and engagement with life.

Whilst we all have different backgrounds and training and may understand mental health in slightly different ways, we work in teams where we are able to discuss and share our views and come up with understandings and interventions that will be most helpful for you.

Each CAMHS practitioner will offer you confidentiality (except in situations where you or someone else may be in danger).  We will also be open and honest with you.

If you ever have any compliments or complaints about your therapist or the care that you receive, please let us know by talking to us or by contacting Alder Hey’s Patient and Family Support Team.

Here are the types of practitioners you might meet in your CAMHS journey.

Applied Behaviour Therapist

Applied behaviour analysis – also known as ABA – is a systematic way of observing someone’s behaviour, identifying desirable changes in that behaviour and then using the most appropriate methods to make those changes.

An ABA therapist may use a variety of techniques to change someone’s behaviour. For example, the therapist may try to improve a child’s communication and social skills by demonstrating more effective ways to interact with other children and then rewarding them when they demonstrate the improved behaviours. The therapist will then analyse how well that approach has worked and, if necessary, make changes to the intervention to improve the child’s behaviour next time around.

Applied behaviour analysis has been used to support a wide range of people, including children and adults on the autism spectrum, as well as individuals with other disabilities.

Art Therapist

Art Therapists have an understanding of art and creativity and how this relates to peoples mental health and emotional well-being.  Art Therapists seek to provide a trusting and facilitating environment in which children and young people are able to safely express themselves in a variety of ways.

They help their clients find an outlet for often complex and confusing emotions, which they may not necessarily be able to express verbally. They also foster self-awareness and confidence. Part of an Art Therapist’s role is to devise distinct ways of working with clients in different environments. This may include providing a safe environment and a variety of art materials to those who do not feel able to talk, allowing the art itself to become a valuable means of communication.

In group work, an art therapist will encourage members to relate to each other via the art they produce. The images and their meanings for the group will need to be worked through which can take some time.

Clinical Psychologist

A Clinical Psychologist is a practitioner who has trained over several years to be able to work with people with a variety of different difficulties.  They will have studied at to doctoral level and typically will have gained experience of working with: children, young people and families; people with learning disabilities; adults and older adults.  Clinical Psychologists then decide where they would like to specialize and gain extra experience and training in their chosen field.  A Clinical Psychologist’s overall aim is to understand and reduce psychological distress and enhance and promote psychological well-being.

They work with a full range of people with mental or physical health problems and have specific skills in conducting cognitive assessments (tests and puzzles to work out how the brain is functioning)

Clinical psychologists work largely in health and social care settings, and will often work alongside other professionals in their multi-disciplinary teams and in other agencies.

A Clinical Psychologist will typically undertake a clinical assessment, using a variety of methods including, psychometric tests & questionnaires, face to face discussions and direct observation of behaviour.  From assessment a Clinical Psychologist will help you to develop a bespoke ‘formulation’; that is a shared understanding of what the presenting difficulties are and what may be keeping them going.  Assessment and formulation inform what interventions are likely to be helpful.  Clinical Psychologists are trained to use a wide range of psychological interventions.  Often these are talking therapies.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapist

A clinician who has trained to become a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist will be skilled in helping you to understand the links between your thoughts, your feelings and what you do.  They will work hard with you to develop your skills in being able to manage your thoughts and feelings and changing your behaviour.

CBT cannot remove your problems, but it can help you deal with them in a more positive way. A CBT Therapist will help you to identify how your thoughts, feelings and behaviours can trap you in a vicious cycle.  They will then help you crack this cycle by breaking down overwhelming problems into smaller parts and showing you how to change these negative patterns to improve the way you feel.

Unlike some other talking treatments, CBT deals mainly with your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from your past. It looks for practical ways to improve your state of mind on a daily basis.  After working out what you can change, your therapist will ask you to practice these changes in your daily life and you will discuss how you got on during the next session.  The eventual aim of therapy is to teach you to apply the skills you have learnt during treatment to your daily life.

Family Therapist

Family Therapy – or to give it its full title, Family and Systemic Psychotherapy – helps people in a close relationship help each other.

Family Therapists are trained to Masters Level and may have trained in other professions before becoming Family Therapists.  They generally seek to enable family members, couples and others who care about each other to express and explore difficult thoughts and emotions safely, to understand each other’s experiences and views, appreciate each other’s needs, build on strengths and make useful changes in their relationships and their lives. Individuals can find Family Therapy helpful, as an opportunity to reflect on important relationships and find ways forward.

Research shows Family Therapy is useful for children, young people and adults experiencing a very wide range of difficulties and experiences.

Family Therapy aims to be:

  • Inclusive and considerate of the needs of each member of the family and/or other key relationships (systems) in people’s lives
  • Recognise and build on peoples’ strengths and relational resources
  • Work in partnership ‘with’ families and others, not ‘on’ them
  • Sensitive to diverse family forms and relationships, beliefs and cultures
  • Enable people to talk, together or individually, often about difficult or distressing issues, in ways that respect their experiences, invite engagement and support recovery

Key Workers

CAMHS Key Workers liaise with external agencies including health, education, social care and the voluntary sector and act as a named key worker to children, young people and families accessing Alder Hey CAMH services.

Some of their duties include:

  • Working directly with children, young people and families, supporting the implementation of therapeutic interventions / care plans formulated by the case manager.
  • Working in the community, including home visits and through agreed activities to positively improve a young person’s social and emotional development.
  • Working flexibly in order to maximise opportunities for engagement of children, young people and families
  • Working in a variety of settings including schools, to allow direct observation and also to support therapeutic interventions.
  • Working to identify appropriate leisure activities for young people and develop a local knowledge of youth groups and alternative voluntary projects young people can link with.
  • Supporting young people to participate in the shaping of CAMHS

Learning Disability Nurse

Learning Disability Nurses are concerned with influencing behaviours and lifestyles to enable a vulnerable group of people to achieve optimum health and to live in an inclusive society as equal citizens, where rights are respected. Learning Disability nurses have the knowledge, skills, attitudes and abilities to work in partnership with people of all ages who have learning disabilities, their families and their carers, to help individuals to develop individually and fulfil their potential in all aspects of their lives irrespective of their disabilities. They work closely with a range of other disciplines in a variety of residential, day and outreach service settings, adapting the level of support they provide according to complex needs’.

Mental Health Nurse

Mental Health Nurses are very skilled at planning and providing support to people across a range of settings.  They will typically have trained in some general nursing skills and then chosen to further train in understanding and providing interventions to people with emotional health difficulties.

Mental Health Nurses typically work as part of a team of professionals and also work independently with young people and families.  They use a bio-psycho-social model of understanding what is going on for young people and they are also trained in understanding and sometimes administering medication.

Mental health Nurses are particularly good at building relationships with, listening to and talking with young people and families so that they can develop, agree and review intervention plans and support packages.

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists work with people of all ages to help them overcome the effects of disability caused by physical or psychological illness, ageing or accident.

Occupational therapists work in hospital and various community settings. They may visit clients and their carers at home to monitor their progress. When a course of therapy is completed, the therapist will analyse how effective it has been.

Play Therapist

Play Therapists receive extensive training in subjects such as child development and attachment (the bonding process). They are also trained to use play, a child’s natural form of expression, as a means for understanding and communicating with children about feelings, thoughts and behaviour.

A Play Therapist will begin by listening to your concerns about your child and family. They will review their history and find out about the stresses the family have been through so that they can help your child make sense of it.  They may ask to seek information from school and other significant adults. An assessment is made of your child’s strengths as well as their difficulties.

Your child’s Play Therapist will talk with you about what to tell your child about their Play Therapy and how to anticipate and answer your child’s questions.  They may work as part of a team of other professionals or independently and may suggest a referral for other professional intervention as part of the support package you are offered. This might include support for you.

Play Therapists sometimes work with parents in the playroom with their child. Some specially trained Filial Play Therapists may train parents in how use child-centered play and other techniques to find different ways to relate to children.

Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist is a medically-qualified practitioner who will have spent a few years training as a doctor at university. He or she will then have worked as a doctor in general medicine and surgery, before choosing to work in helping people with mental health problems.  After a few years working with people of different ages, a child and adolescent psychiatrist chooses to specialise in working with young people and their carers and families, with the special needs of children in mind. After a number of years doing this they become a specialist.

What are a psychiatrist’s special skills? All psychiatrists will learn how to:

  • Assess a person’s state of mind
  • Use the “bio psycho-social” model of understanding. This emphasises the importance of a person’s past experiences, family, culture, surroundings and work as well as any medical and physical features.
  • Diagnose a mental illness
  • Use a range of psychological treatments
  • Use a range of medications
  • Help a person recover

As well as these ‘core’ skills, a psychiatrist will work with other non-medical colleagues to ensure that a patient gets the best and safest possible care.

Psychodynamic Psychotherapists

A Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist can help a child or adolescent to understand themselves through their relationship together. The problems identified in this relationship shed light on those in other relationships in the child’s life, whether in the past or present. During a therapeutic session, young children may be encouraged to play, while older children may be asked to draw or paint and teenagers to talk about their feelings. Through the relationship with the therapist in a consistent setting, the child or adolescent may begin to know and to feel able to express their most troubling thoughts and feelings.

The extensive training of Child Psychotherapists uniquely enables them to work with these very disturbing thoughts and help the child make sense of their experience and develop their own individuality and potential. Confused, frightened, hurt, angry or painful feelings can gradually be put into words rather than actions. As a result the child can begin to express their emotions in a way that is more helpful to them.

For the wider network the Child Psychotherapist will also be able to represent the child’s experience in relation to his/her family, placement, special educational needs and therapeutic needs.

More information can be found on the NSCAP website.

Social Worker

Social workers form relationships with people and assist them to live more successfully within their local communities by helping them find solutions to their problems.

Social work involves engaging not only with clients themselves but their families and friends as well as working closely with other organisations including the police, local authority departments, schools and youth services.

Social Workers who are working within CAMHS have chosen to specialize in emotional wellbeing and how to use their social work skills and other therapeutic skills to enhance people’s lives.

Youth Worker

Youth workers help facilitate personal, social and educational growth in young people to help them reach their full potential in society.

At its core, Youth Work is about the relationship and conversations built up between a youth worker and a young person.

Youth Workers work with young people in a variety of settings such as:

  • youth centres;
  • schools;
  • colleges;
  • faith-based groups.

Youth Work could also be street based due to its outreach nature.

Youth workers’ roles vary greatly, but in addition to working with young people face-to-face, typical activities involve:

  • managing and delivering youth and community projects and resources;
  • assessing the needs of young people, and planning and delivering programmes related to areas such as health, fitness, smoking, drugs, gangs, violence, relationships and bullying;
  • befriending and supporting individuals in various settings, including outreach work;
  • mentoring, coaching and supporting individuals to facilitate personal, social and educational growth in young people as well as encouraging greater social inclusion;
  • working in partnership with professionals from other organisations that support young people such as social care, health, police, education, youth offending teams and local authorities;
  • attending and contributing to multi-agency meetings that bring together practitioners from different sectors as part of a team around the family (TAF) approach;
  • working with parents and community groups to win support for improved provision and acting as an advocate for young people’s interests.

Other types of psychotherapy

There are several different types of psychotherapy that have been proven to be effective and are offered by the NHS. Some of these are described below.  However, if your CAMHS practitioner thinks that another therapy approach might be helpful, they should explain to you what it is and how it works.

  • Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT) – helps us to look at patterns of relating, and the effect these patterns are having on how we feel, our problems and our relationships. It brings together ideas from other therapies such as CBT and psychoanalytic psychotherapy into one. It is an active therapy that helps you to take part in the process of change in your own way. Read more at ACAT.
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) – looks at the way difficulties can be triggered and maintained by events involving relationships with others. It helps you to cope with the feelings involved as well as working out coping strategies.
  • Humanistic Therapies – this included counselling approaches which encourage you to think about yourself more positively and aim to improve your self-awareness.  Therapists will offer you a non-judgemental space and be guided by what you want to talk about.

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