Working with children and young people

“Working with a child psychotherapist has changed the way I work. I’m much more open to asking the right questions and investigating underlying problems in the family. The whole experience has been invaluable.” Educational psychologist working with under-fives

Children and young people with moderate to severe emotional and behavioural difficulties require a range of interventions over time. Such interventions can be resource-intensive but the implications of under-investment are costly long-term problems into adulthood and inter-generationally.

The early intervention of effective services is likely to prevent the development or intensification of difficulties in childhood, preventing problems escalating to severe levels and helping to reduce the long-term demands on services. In order to meet the needs of vulnerable children, services need access to a set of distinctive skills and competences that can be delivered at a high level by a small number of specialist workers including child and adolescent psychotherapists.

Child and adolescent psychotherapy is a core profession within Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). It offers psychoanalytic treatment for children, young people, parents and families. Therapists are trained to carefully observe a child or young person and respond to what they might be communicating through their behaviour and play and have particular skill in putting into words the troubled feelings that children evoke in them. Therapists 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, parents and families to ensure a child-centred approach.

Child and adolescent psychotherapists offer a specialist function as part of a multidisciplinary team, offering competences including:

  • Specialist assessment and treatment options, both short-term and long-term
  • An ability to work with and treat the most complex cases and the network of agencies surrounding them
  • An ability to work with the most disturbed and disturbing children and young people and contain the anxiety they create within the family and wider network, including school
  • An extensive knowledge of child development and an understanding of attachment issues that can create difficulties in a child’s relationships with others
  • The depth of training and experience to manage organisational dynamics and processes
  • Supervision and training of workers in specialist CAMHS as well as in universal services

CAMHS professionals often refer children to child and adolescent psychotherapists after other inventions have already taken place. Children and young people who have complex and co-morbid difficulties, and who are the most costly in terms of their use of resources, can most benefit from the highly skilled intervention of specialist services that include the input of child and adolescent psychotherapy.

Positive long-term outcomes

Child and adolescent psychotherapists offer positive long-term outcomes for the emotional wellbeing of children, young people and their families. This can result in improved life-chances for children and young people - as well as cost-savings and better use of resources for the NHS, children’s services and partner agencies.

Further information:

Download Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy A guide for those working with children, young people and families

ACP-accredited training schools offer a range of training courses for the children's workforce, from short courses in child development and mental health to the full professional training.

Find out more about what difficulties are treated, how long treatment lasts and how child and adolescents psychotherapists work FAQS

Find out more about the settings where child psychotherapists work

Find out about the Evidence & Research for the effectiveness of child and adolescent psychotherapy and Leaflets and Books written by ACP members.

“You’ve helped us to understand that H’s behaviour isn’t about being provocative, it’s because he’s terrified. We’ve manage to find ways of understanding his fears and using story cards and pictures so that school is less of a scary place for him. We didn’t realise how much we would gain from having your insight into his feelings, his own little world.” Headteacher talking about five-year-old boy on the autistic spectrum