How we work – Choice and Partnership Approach (CAPA)

Understanding you and your difficulties

When you, or someone in your family, have a problem, one of the really important things to do, is to try and understand it. Where it comes from? What keeps it there? We are all unique and our problems are unique to us too.  This goes for all problems, but it is particularly true for psychological problems; like really low mood (what some people might call depression), or really big worries (what some people call anxiety).  You are a person after all, not just a set of problems or difficulties, or a diagnosis. Once a problem is better understood it is easier to find ways to help.


How CAMHS can help

When you come to CAMHS the first thing we do is talk with you to hear about the difficulties you want to change.   We will work with you to try and get a shared view of what is going on using the ideas we have and hearing your ideas and your understanding of the problem.  We also like to hear from you about your strengths and what is going well.   We often find it helpful to get a range of ideas from talking to others who know you well – like people in your family.  We call this ‘shared expertise’; you are the expert on your life, and we have expertise from our training, and from working with other young people and their families, about what might help.  Sometimes we might ask you if we can talk to teachers in school and other people who might be able to help us understand things better.

 We will be interested in what you want to be different in your life – we will want to hear your goals and wishes about what you want to change, also what you might like to stay the same.  For some people this is quite easy and they know what they want – for others it can take a bit of time to get there – as we have said everyone is unique!  And sometimes just understanding the problem a little better can be helpful enough and you might not need to meet again.

Once we have talked together we will share our thoughts about how we understand the difficulties you want to change.  We will share our ideas, from what we have heard, about where the difficulties come from, what keeps them stuck, and what we think might help.  We call this first meeting a ‘choice appointment’.  There may be a few things to choose from and together we aim to reach a successful agreement about what the next steps forward should be to help you.

Once you and your CAMHS worker have a shared idea about what is going on and agreed a plan to try and change it, you will be given a written copy.  This is called a ‘care plan’. Usually this care plan is in the form of a letter that will go to your family Doctor or GP and often a copy will go to a parent or carer. We may decide together that something else other than CAMHS would be more helpful, and we will try and work out what this might be, or you may find just talking this one time is enough to give you ideas about how to tackle your worries. If the agreement is to work together in CAMHS you will be booked into ‘partnership’ appointments with a CAMHS worker who is the best person to help you make the changes you want.  Throughout these appointments we will ask you for feedback about how things are going and how well you and your CAMHS worker are working together – just to check things are on track.


What to expect

Mostly this shared understanding is done by talking – questionnaires can also be helpful to get information and ideas to understand you and your difficulties better. Some people find talking difficult and we have other ways of working such as play or art therapy if it is hard to find the words to talk about things.   Along the way you and your CAMHS worker will share decisions about the help you are getting, offering you choices along the way, and work with you to help you make the best choices for you.  From time to time it will be helpful to check out if things are heading in the right direction – and if the understanding you had at the beginning still fits.  Again through talking and questionnaires we will be able to check this out.   If you speak to a Specialist CAMHS worker on your own they will tell you how they will treat the information you give them and who, if anyone, they will share it with.  If they don’t, feel free to ask – this is about you after all.

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A - Z of mental health conditions.

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CAMHS Dictionary

Confused by all the names associated with CAMHS?