Coming to CAMHS - what to expect


The Choice and Partnership Approach (CAPA)

HPFT uses the Choice and Partnership Approach in its delivery of mental health services. This approach was developed by one of the CAMHS teams in Hertfordshire, in collaboration with a CAMHS team in Richmond, and the approach is now recommended at a national level for mental health teams by the Department of Health. We are proud to have been part of its conception and development. The aims of CAPA are to work collaboratively with the referred (young) person, and to set goals in treatment early on, which can then be measured against the impact of therapy.

The Choice appointment is the entry point, where whatever the background of the mental health professional, they will essentially do the same thing, thinking together with you and your child and family about what brings you here to CAMHS what are your strengths and what are the goals that you want to work on should we agree together to move into the next phase – which we call Partnership. The partnership phase (the therapy phase) is a series of appointments with a specific team member who has the necessary skills to be able to help with the goals identified at the Choice appointment. It is common for the young person (parents or family) to see a different person at the Choice and Partnership. Once at the partnership phase the contact with the named therapist remains until the review stage (where we look at the impact that the intervention has had and make any necessary changes together with the young person. This might include agreement to finish, as the goals have been reached, a change of therapist, to tackle a new issue that has emerged or to keep going with the existing therapy.         

Treatment Options in the Partnership phase:


Individual work with your child

Sometimes we will offer individual sessions to your child, because the evidence base (what research shows works well) supports this approach. Young people (teenagers) often attend with the expectation that they will be seen for individual sessions, and are happy with this. Younger children may need some help to feel comfortable with this, and if this is the case you can attend the session too, to support your child with these sessions.


Family work

We might agree together that it makes sense to work with the whole (or part) of the family, rather than just with the young person. Families are small and unique communities. Like all communities they sometimes get into difficulties through their differences with one another, or feel the strain when members experience troubles, or when family members enter different stages of their lives.

Family Therapy helps people in close relationship help each other. It enables family members to express and explore difficult thoughts and emotions safely, to understand each other’s experiences and views, appreciate each other’s needs, build on family strengths and make useful changes in their relationships and their lives.

It’s not about taking sides, blaming, or thinking there are simple answers. Rather, we will aim to think together to share how we all understand what is going on, and explore ways forward that might work.

‘Family’ means different things to different people, and we will take account of who you say is important to you.


Working with parents

Sometimes we agree that we will work with just the parents / carers in a family, (or offer such work whilst another team member sees the young person). It might be that with a younger child that the best way forward is to think with the parent(s) how they are going to make changes at home to help the child. It might be that an older teenager refuses to come to sessions, but that needn’t stop their parents from thinking about how they can bring about changes through their actions.

Or it might be that we see the young person and parents separately for a while until everyone is ready to come together in a family meeting.

Sometimes there are issues which it is appropriate for parents to talk about without their children present – if you think that is the case, let us know, and we will be happy to offer this.