Transferring from CAMHS to Adult Mental Health Services
Transferring from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to Adult Mental Health Services (AMHS) can be scary. Two of our bloggers share their experiences.
Rebecca’s story: adjusting to more independence
I was under Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for around two years, beginning when I was 14. I had weekly therapy and also an inpatient stay. Being so young at the time, I didn’t understand a lot of what was going on and I was quite reluctant to talk about how I was feeling. A lot of work involved my parents being my ‘carers’ and being able to talk for me.
I found the service helpful, looking back. There was lots of interaction and the approach certainly felt suitable for me as a teen.
Transitioning to adult services
After my inpatient stay, I turned 16 and was transferred to adult services. This was something I was not so keen to do, especially after hearing bad ‘reviews’ from people who had made the transition. But nonetheless, I gave it a try. I thought, maybe for me it would be different…it couldn’t be that bad.
To begin with, the transition was gradual and okay. I met with my new therapist from Adult Mental Health Services (AMHS) with my CAMHS team. My situation was explained and everyone was informed, so we were on the same page. My parents were involved too.
I was then told that the new therapist and team would be given all of my details and history, so therapy would continue from where it left off with the CAMHS team. However, this was not the case. I found it quite frustrating that despite us meeting and my notes being handed over, I still had to ‘start again’ and explain my story.
Adjusting to a different style of support
The therapy was not continued as I thought either. I realised that, being an adult, the work became more independent. There was less support and parent involvement. It was me and my AMHS team. It felt different.
At this time, I was also quite low. My brain functioned less and I was more resistant to getting help - I did everything to keep away from the team and avoid the services. I was finding the transition quite difficult.
However, the approach was more direct and I was trusted more, which meant that, in a way, I grew up. Whereas under CAMHS I could lie more, get away with things and ‘mess with the services’, being under AMHS I realised I could not get away with things so easily. I had to buck up my ideas and sort things out.
Overall, I found both services useful. They represent key phases in my recovery and life. This is my own experience and so it differs for everyone, but I would definitely say a smoother transition process and more of a handover would have been useful. Also, more preparation for the different style of treatment under AMHS would have helped. Going from one extreme to another was hard to adjust to and accept. However, I am glad that I saw both services – they each taught me massive life lessons I am grateful for.
Author: Rebecca, 21
Hannah’s story: gaining more of a say over my treatment
Change is daunting and can create huge apprehension. This was certainly how I viewed changing from CAMHS to adult services – it seemed like an impossible mountain to climb.
I had finally got comfortable with my CAMHS team, which had taken a very long time. They were my fourth team and it wasn’t easy being open with them, but they were so lovely and absolutely incredible at their jobs. I remember crying in our last few sessions and wishing I wouldn’t have to move.
Anxiety about turning 18 and losing my support system
I got myself completely worked up about turning 18. So much so, that I spent the months leading up to my 18th birthday in a psychiatric inpatient unit hundreds of miles away from home.
I was convinced that moving to adult services was the end of the world, that being an adult would be the worst thing ever and that leaving CAMHS and having to get used to a new team would be impossible. I spent countless nights recalling horror stories people had told me about adult services, screaming to my mum that I simply couldn’t do it.
BUT here I am, two years down the line, and I can tell you that I survived and that it was okay. There have been hard, awful times but I have also learnt so much about myself and found strength that I never knew I had.
Using the transition to AMHS as a fresh start
I was able to use the transition to AMHS as a fresh start. With CAMHS I had been labelled “difficult” and “complex”; I was stuck with diagnoses that didn’t fit, and therefore offered therapy that was never going to help. I was becoming a revolving-door patient and the support I was receiving was more about keeping me alive than any quality of life.
CAMHS are amazing but you are a child with them and you don’t have much say in your treatment. When you get to AMHS, by law you are an adult with your own responsibility, so it is down to you. They do want to help, but you have to ask for that support and take on some responsibility. This may seem scary; it certainly was to me. Part of my illness meant I wanted to remain a child and never have any responsibility. But you have to grow up eventually.
A chance to take control of my treatment
Going into adult services gave me the chance to reinvent myself and take control of my own mental health and treatment. Don’t get me wrong, AMHS still has a duty of care and can’t let anything happen to you; but it is done in such a different way to CAMHS.
I had all my diagnoses changed in AMHS. It didn’t happen straight away, and the changes have been hard-fought, but I finally feel like I understand myself better. I am no longer the girl I was in CAMHS.
Smoothing the transition
I know the transition process varies depending on where you are in the UK. I was incredibly lucky as I got seen straight away, though I know many sadly have to wait.
My transition was gradual - I met my Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) with my two CAMHS workers a few times, and then I met with my CPN and adult psychiatrist alone. This gradual approach allowed me to feel more confident about being able to speak to my new nurse. I also had a final meeting with my CAMHS team and was able to say good bye and thank you. It gave me closure, which I think was really important before starting a new chapter.
Tips for easing the transition from CAMHS to AMHS
The first few appointments will be difficult, and the first doctor, nurse or team you see may not be the right fit for you - and that’s ok. Mine wasn’t first time; we didn’t click and it wasn’t helping. We discussed this and I got a different nurse, who works so much better for me. The important thing is to keep persevering until you get the help you need, and not let negative experiences other people have had put you off. Everyone’s experience is different and that’s okay.
My main piece of advice for adult services is to go with an open mind. Be as honest as you can - this will help them understand you better so you get the right treatment. There are more treatment options available to adults. So being completely honest is the key to getting the right help!
Author: Hannah, 20
Where to get help
For more information about Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), transitioning from CAMHS to Adult Mental Health Services (AMHS), and who will be involved in your treatment, take a look at your guide to support.
For more information, tips on looking after yourself, and advice on where to get support, have a look at our find help page.