Tool to gauge children’s experiences of mental health services

The experiences of children and young people using mental health services may soon be measurable using a tool developed at King’s College, London.

The Children and Adolescent Service Experience (ChASE) will ask service users aged nine to 17 and their main carers to complete 15 questions about their experiences of therapy. These will cover what young people thought of their therapist, what happened during their sessions, and whether they felt therapy had helped them.

Dr Crispin Day, head of the Child and Adolescent Mental Heath Services Research Unit at King’s College, said it was important to know how satisfied young service users were. “A poor experience of treatment is associated with poor mental health outcomes and early termination,” he said.

Reflect on experiences

Day said ChASE questionnaires offer professionals “a powerful new way of measuring that satisfaction” in children and young people who can “reflect on their experiences and contribute to decision making in complex and sophisticated ways”.

Results of 132 completed questionnaires showed the tool had “good internal consistency”, according to researchers, and could predict a number of outcomes, including how likely children were to attend therapy and their eventual mental health outcomes.

Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of children’s charity the Who Cares? Trust, supports service user evaluation, particularly for children and young people who have “historically been ignored as a service user group because their testimony and evaluation have been felt to have little value”.

Care needed

“No service can be sure that it is meeting its users’ needs unless it asks them for their feedback in a way that suits the users and is subject to objective scrutiny,” Finlayson said.

She considered ChASE a “useful addition to the user evaluation toolkit” but added that professionals “must be careful that questionnaires don’t replace talking to young people and their carers about what they think of the service and whether it is making a difference to their quality of life”.

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