Where do Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists work?

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists work as part of multi-disciplinary teams in the NHS and other public services to assess and treat infants, children and young people and work with their parents, families and the networks surrounding them. Their in-depth training to doctoral level enables them to carefully observe what a child or young person might be communicating through their behaviour and play and work with complex states of mind that are not readily available to conscious thought. 

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists may see children and young people individually or with other family members.  The therapeutic relationship is developed through talking or play, depending on age. The child has an opportunity to work towards a better understanding of themselves, their relationships and their established patterns of behaviour. Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists work with other professionals in a range of multidisciplinary settings within and outside the NHS.

Here we outline some of those settings and explain the therapist’s role within them:

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS):
Roles include treating children and young people with complex mental health problems and disorders and working with the networks surrounding them, and training, supervising and consulting to other professionals.

Hospital-based child and adolescent psychotherapy services offer support to parents and infants and to children and young people with chronic, acute or long-term illnesses, helping them and their families address the emotional fall-out of illness and its treatment, which often continues long after medical interventions have ended.

Early years:
Direct work with parents and infants, and training, supervision and consultation to nursery staff, health visitors and other professionals, helps address emotional problems in early life that can impact on the child’s development.

Helping teachers and other school staff to support children and young people with complex difficulties who may cause disruption in the classroom and playground or may become excessively withdrawn. Interventions including work discussion groups, where staff have space to make sense of their contact with highly disturbed and disturbing children, often help hold a child in school and prevent exclusions.

Specialist and residential units: 
Offering specialist treatment for children and support for staff in, for example, units for children with complex and severe behavioural difficulties.

Looked after children teams within social services:
Offering individual and group therapy to children and young people, consultation to professionals including social workers and teachers and parenting work for foster, adoptive and birth parents, to help young people and those around them understand their severe trauma and prevent placement breakdown.

Learning and behavioural difficulties: 
Identifying and treating obstacles to learning and development, including work at pre-school, primary and secondary levels.

Youth justice services: 
Work in forensic settings offering individual and group therapy and consultation and training to staff in understanding and managing hostile and violent children and young people.

Voluntary sector: 
Our members work in a number of organisations within the voluntary sector, including Barnardos, The Place2Be and Open Door.

Private practice: 
A number of our members see children and young people privately, either independently or in addition to their work in the public or voluntary sector. They are subject to the same training, professional requirements and code of conduct. Visit Find a Therapist for more information.

For more information click here to access our Briefing Paper Series which highlights the specialist work carried out by Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists in eight areas:

  • the early years
  • in schools
  • in hospitals
  • with children with disabilities
  • in the family courts
  • with fostered and adopted children
  • with parents and carers
  • longer-term and more intensive work.