What is Child Psychotherapy?

Child and adolescent psychotherapy is a core NHS profession with rigorously regulated standards and training, approved by the Department of Health and recognised as an important component of comprehensive Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).  Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists work in community services, hospitals, early years centres, schools, social services and the youth justice system. They may be employed by statutory agencies or work in the voluntary and independent sectors. 

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists are dedicated to understanding the complex emotional lives of infants, children, young people, families and carers in depth. This is a psychoanalytic approach which seeks to look beneath the surface of problematic emotions, behaviours or relationships and to help children and adolescents, and their families, to understand themselves and their difficulties. Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist are trained to carefully observe a child or young person and respond to what they might be communicating through their behaviour and play. Their distinctive NHS training enables them to develop and sustain relationships with children and young people whose difficulties may be long standing and severe and whose levels of disturbance may make it hard for them to benefit from the care and opportunities offered them.

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists may see children and young people individually or with other family members. They also apply their framework of thinking to work with parents, families and carers and to training and supporting other professionals who work with children, young people and families to encourage a deeper understanding of the child's perspective. 

Child psychotherapy in the UK has its roots both in the world of the psychoanalysis of children and in the public sector, in the form of the child guidance movement. Both of these emerged in the 1920s but they came together when the new profession of child psychotherapy was formed after the Second World War and in the context of the founding of the NHS. The ACP was founded in 1949 as the professional body for this new profession, setting national standards for training and practice. In 2019 we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the ACP, and commissioned three filmed interviews with members who trained in the early days of the profession and went on to make significant contributions to the profession in different ways.