What is Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists are highly skilled and rigorously trained mental health professionals who work with children and young people, and their parents or carers, including those with serious mental health difficulties.

What does child and adolescent psychotherapy offer? 

They work as a vital part of multi-disciplinary teams in the NHS and other public services to assess and treat infants, children and young people with severe and complex mental health problems and work with their families, carers and networks of professionals surrounding them. Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists are one of the 12 Psychological Professions in the NHS.

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists may see children and young people individually or with other family members and can support these relationships as well as those with carers and professionals. Concurrent work with the parents or carers of children in therapy is an important part of the child psychotherapy approach.

Child and adolescent psychotherapy is the only mental health specialist training to focus exclusively on work with children and young people (0-25) and their families. It is a six-year training comprising a two year pre-clinical course and an NHS funded four year full-time doctoral level clinical training. 

How do Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists work?

Children and young people with severe and long-lasting mental health problems may respond to people and situations in ways that they do not understand and cannot control. Their emotions can be extreme and are often expressed through their behaviour and in problematic relationships. These difficulties often extend to relationships with services and professionals. This can prevent these children from benefiting from the care and opportunities that are available to them. 

The approach of Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists seeks to look beneath the surface of difficult emotions, behaviours and relationships to help children, adolescents and their families to understand themselves and their problems. They are trained to carefully observe what a child or young person might be communicating non-verbally through their behaviour and play.

The extensive training of Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists enables them to work with these very disturbing thoughts and to develop and sustain relationships with children and young people to help them to make sense of their experience. 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 less disturbed ways and start to return to the normal process of child development. They are likely to feel less anxious, more able to learn and better equipped to sustain friendships. 

In these videos, senior members of the profession talk about their work as Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists.