Community Mental Health Teams
(CMHTs): key facts
Mental health services are
undergoing a great deal of change and development at
In many areas, the traditional
Community Mental Health Team is being re-structured into new
specialist teams, so please do bear this in mind when reading this
leaflet. Information on the new service teams should be available
from your local NHS mental health trust.
What is a community mental health team (CMHT)?
A group of mental health professionals who
work together to help people with a wide range of mental health
problems. The different professions all have different knowledge
and skills which can be used to tackle problems together.
Why would I have been referred to
Your GP might try to help you with a mental
health problem by giving support, prescribing antidepressants or
referring you to a counsellor or psychotherapist. But if your
problems are more complicated, they may refer you to a CMHT.
Who might I meet in a
You will most often see a mental health
worker. They can be from a number of different professional
backgrounds (see below), but will all try to develop a trusting,
respectful and helpful relationship with you.
How will the CMHT help me?
They will help to sort out what areas you need
help with, keep an eye on how you are, develop your strengths; work
to find answers to your current problems and help you to
How will I be seen?
You may be seen on your own, in a group with
other people or, sometimes, with your friends or family. Mental
health workers share a number of important skills, but can
also use their more specialist skills when needed. These
- Community Psychiatric Nurses (CPN)
- Social Workers
- Occupational Therapists (OT)
- Clinical Psychologists
The team manager will usually be a senior
nurse or social worker and will often not see clients themselves.
They are responsible for the practical details of running the team,
how the team works with other parts of the health service and other
organisations, helping the team to develop and making sure that the
team has high standards of practice. Receptionists and
secretaries help the teams run smoothly.
These can include outreach workers, benefits
workers, support workers, recovery workers, vocational therapists,
art therapists and psychotherapists. Staff without a
professional qualification are now working more and more with such
teams, especially people who have had mental health problems,
advocates, and workers from day centres or housing organisations.
Specialist old age psychiatry teams may include professionals such
as speech therapists or physiotherapists.
Where do CMHTs work?
The team will have a base, like a clinic. They
may see you there but can also see you in an out-patient clinic, GP
surgery, day-centre, or your home.
How do CMHTs work?
They work with you as an individual but also
come together in groups to discuss how best to support you. At
regular team meetings, staff try to make sure that they have a
clear picture of your difficulties and strengths. They can then
plan the right help with you and will decide which member of the
group should work with you – this person would usually be your
What is a key worker/care coordinator?
Usually a social worker or nurse. Their job is
to get to know you, learn about your difficulties, find out how you
see your problems, know about your strengths, discuss any plans
with you, give counselling, information and advice, to make sure
that you have care plan and that everybody is working together
What is a care plan (also known as a Recovery
The different parts of your help or treatment
are written down in a care plan. You should have a copy of this and
it should be looked at every few months (see below).
What is a Care Programme Approach?
The CPA is a system for having a meeting every
few months with everyone who is involved in your care plan. You
will be invited to this meeting and, if you want, can bring a
carer, family member or advocate (see below) to support you.
What about confidentiality?
Members of a CMHT have to keep your
information confidential in the same way as other doctors and
health-care staff. But they will share information about you with
other members of the team so that they can give you the best
possible care. They will also need to talk to your GP and any other
doctors whom you are seeing.
Can relatives and friends become
A CMHT may want a family to be involved, but
are still bound by medical confidentiality. So, they will usually
ask the patient/client their permission for this to happen. Many
teams provide information for families and offer support
What about advocates?
An advocate can go to meetings with you to
help you to ask questions and get your message across to
professionals. They are usually employed by a voluntary
organisation or a different part of the health service.
Will I be offered the choice of pills or
This will depend both on what would be most
helpful - and on what you would prefer. Many people get help from
both medication and talking treatments.
In the UK, there is now a range of more
specialist CMHTs - Home treatment; Crisis intervention; Early
onset psychosis; First episode psychosis; ABT (assessment and brief
treatment); Continuing care; Rehabilitation; Assertive Outreach and
What can I expect from my local CMHT?
Teams in different areas may be quite
different. Some CMHTs concentrate on helping people who have severe
and long-lasting mental illness, some on shorter treatments for
anxiety and depression. What any CMHT provides is decided between
your local Health Authority, who have the money, and your local
Mental Health Trust, who runs the CMHT.
This is an abridged version of
our main leaflet on
Community Mental Health Teams.
This leaflet is made available through the
generosity of the Charitable
Monies Allocation Committee of the mental health charity St
© November 2012. Due for review:
November 2014. The Royal College of Psychiatrists. You can
link to, download, print, photocopy and distribute this leaflet
free of charge. But you must not change it or repost it on a
Charity registration number (England and
Wales) 228636 and in Scotland SC038369.
Please note that we are unable to offer advice on individual cases. Please see our
advice on getting help.
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