Aim To explore the experiences of children, young people and their families attending their first appointments with a child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) clinic.
Method Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a sample of 17 family groups who attended an outpatient clinic.
Findings Four themes were identified: telling traumatic events, feeling the stigma associated with mental ill health, experience of being in unfamiliar territory and having a therapeutic connection.
Conclusion Families attribute significant meaning to their first engagement with CAMHS. Practitioners need to be cognisant of the importance of this first encounter for families and offer clear information for children and young people before their first appointments.