Therapeutic relationships in child and adolescent mental health services: a Delphi study with young people, carers and clinicians

Rachael Ryan, Katherine Berry, Heather Law, Samantha Hartley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Therapeutic relationships have been widely recognized as crucial to good outcomes in psychotherapy. However, there is comparatively little research on what constitutes and impacts therapeutic relationships in the context of child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). Relationships within CAMHS are inherently complex, with multiple relationships taking place between young people, parents or carers and staff members of various disciplines. The Delphi method was used to gain consensus regarding the definition of therapeutic relationships, what helps to build and what hinders the formation of a good relationship in the context of CAMHS. Three expert groups (young people, carers and staff) totalling 88 participants were invited to complete an online Delphi survey across three rounds. Consensus was reached to define the therapeutic relationship as trust, reliability and absence of judgemental attitudes (n = 19 statements). Factors that help build good relationships predominantly referred to staff behaviours of setting up open communication channels, showing acceptance of the young person’s difficulties and being consistent (n = 88 consensus agreement statements). Factors that hindered a good relationship were inconsistencies and lack of clear communication between all groups (n = 18 consensus agreement statements). Effective therapeutic relationships require key behaviours and approaches from clinicians. It is essential that staff members are open and honest in facilitating discussions about parental involvement within the relationship and that staff provide consistent and trusting support to young people and family members. Our findings demonstrate that key stakeholders agree on important aspects and that these could be a catalyst for renewed training and support structures.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Nursing
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Feb 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Therapeutic relationships in child and adolescent mental health services: a Delphi study with young people, carers and clinicians'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this