Transition of care from child to adult mental health services: the great divide

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2009 Jul;22(4):386-90. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e32832c9221.


Purpose of review: Adolescents with mental health problems often require transition of care from child and adolescent to adult mental health services. This review is a synthesis of current research and policy literature on transition to describe the barriers at the interface between child and adolescent mental health services and adult mental health services and outcomes of poor transition.

Recent findings: Adolescence is a risk period for emergence of serious mental disorders. Child and adolescent mental health services and adult mental health services use rigid age cut-offs to delineate service boundaries, creating discontinuities in provision of care. Adolescent mental health services are patchy across the world. Several recent studies have confirmed that problems occur during transition in diverse settings across several countries. In physical health, there are emerging models of practice to improve the process and outcomes of transition, but there is very little comparable literature in mental healthcare.

Summary: Poor transition leads to disruption in continuity of care, disengagement from services and is likely to lead to poorer clinical outcomes. Some young people, such as those with neurodevelopmental disorders and complex needs, are at a greater risk of falling through the care gap during transition. Services need robust and high-quality evidence on the process and outcomes of transition so that effective intervention strategies can be developed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Community Mental Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Continuity of Patient Care / organization & administration*
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult