Referrals and appointments

What is a referral?

A referral is when someone who works with your child, often a general practitioner (GP), teacher or social worker, has requested for your child to have an appointment with CAMHS. They should discuss a referral with you before it is made. Some clinics also accept self-referrals from young people or parents/carers.

The person referring your child usually writes a letter to CAMHS or completes a referral form explaining the reasons why they think it would be helpful for your child to get support. You can ask them to do this for you if your local CAMHS does not accept self-referrals.

Once your child has been referred to CAMHS, the team will decide whether they think they will be able to provide useful support for your family. If so, you will be contacted by the team. CAMHS professionals will usually invite you to attend the initial meeting or assessment with your child. There can be a wait between the time the referral is made and the first CAMHS appointment, but this how long this takes can vary.

If you would like to check the likely date for your child’s first appointment, phone your local CAMHS service.

If the CAMHS team decide that they are not able to provide you with support, they will contact you or the referrer to explain why.

In an emergency: if you become worried about your child’s safety before your first appointment please go directly to your GP or local hospital accident and emergency (A&E) department.

What happens at my child’s first appointment?

The first appointment will help CAMHS staff to make an assessment of your child’s mental health needs (often this can take more than one appointment).

Appointments usually take place at our base, but can sometimes happen at other places such as home or school. We will talk with you about where it’s best to meet.

Children and young people are seen individually and with their parents, carers or families during the assessment. You and your child will meet with one or two professionals. They will ask you a series of questions in order to help understand your current difficulties. If you are not confident speaking English (even if your child is), they can organise for an interpreter to come to the meeting.

How will I be involved?

Professionals encourage families and carers to be a part of the assessment process because you are most likely to be able to provide additional information that can be useful when considering how best to support your child. We may meet you together with your child or separately. It is important to know that you can also ask the professionals questions at this stage and throughout your involvement at CAMHS.

The CAMHS team may also ask your permission to contact other professionals that know your child, such as teachers, social workers, or family support workers. You can tell them if you are not happy with this.

What questions will they ask?

The professionals will ask you and your child some questions like the ones below:

  • What difficulties is your child currently experiencing?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Who is around the home, and what is the family structure?
  • How does your child get on at school, with friends and teachers?
  • How are your child’s mood or stress levels?
  • What was your child like as a baby/ at different stages in their childhood (for older children)?
  • What are the important things that have happened in your child’s life so far?
  • What is your child good at and how do they like to enjoy themselves?
  • What would you like your child to change or achieve from coming to CAMHS?
  • What type of help do you want?
  • Do you know about any risks to your child’s well being or safety?

Once the CAMHS team has completed their assessment, we will talk with you about the options available and your preferences, so that together we can plan and agree the best treatment for your child.
Find out more about how CAMHS can help