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A qualitative evaluation of an exercise practitioner in an outpatient child and adolescent mental health service

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 October 2022

Evan Matthews*
School of Health Science, South East Technological University, Waterford, Ireland
Mary Cowman
School of Health Science, South East Technological University, Waterford, Ireland
Brian Mulhare
School of Health Science, South East Technological University, Waterford, Ireland School of Humanities, South East Technological University, Waterford, Ireland
Elaine Banville
School of Humanities, South East Technological University, Waterford, Ireland
Sheila Kissane
Wexford Mental Health Services, The Health Service Executive, Wexford, Ireland
Oscar Lederman
Eastern Suburbs Mental Health Service, Coogee, New South Wales, Australia School of Health Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
Paula Lowney
Health and Wellbeing, South East Community Healthcare, The Health Service Executive, Wexford, Ireland
Fran Ronan
Sports Active Wexford, Wexford County Council, Wexford, Ireland
Suzanne Denieffe
School of Humanities, South East Technological University, Waterford, Ireland
Address for correspondence: Dr Evan Matthews, PhD., O’Connell Bianconi Building, The School of Health Science, South East Technological University, Waterford, Ireland (Email:



Physical activity interventions can confer a range of physical and mental health benefits among young people with mental disorders. In some contexts, such as Ireland, integrated physical activity is not easily available within child and adolescent mental health services. Therefore, an interagency pilot intervention was established in a child and adolescent mental health service in Ireland with the integration of a novel exercise practitioner into the multidisciplinary mental health team.


A qualitative evaluation was conducted to understand the impact of the pilot intervention and to understand issues of implementation that arose throughout.


In-depth qualitative interviews with service users’ parents/guardians (N = 3) and a single focus group with existing service providers (N = 3), framed by the RE-AIM framework were conducted to evaluate the pilot intervention. Data were analysed using thematic analysis to explore themes.


Three overarching themes were identified. These were as follows: (i) Making changes toward healthier physical activity behaviours; (ii) An intervention of therapeutic holism; and (iii) The integrated service delivery.


This research provides insight on the value of a novel integrated exercise practitioner in outpatient young persons’ mental health services in Ireland, indicating an enhanced and complimentary therapeutic service. These findings will be helpful for integrating Exercise Practitioners in this setting going forward.

Short Report
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland

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