Purpose: Timely access to effective treatment is a primary goal for mental health services; however, when demand exceeds available resources, services may place clients on a waitlist or restrict services. This paper aims to identify approaches used by mental health services to manage service demand and waitlists. Design/methodology/approach: A review of research literature between 2009 and 2019 was conducted using the Medline, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Embase and Cochrane databases. Articles were screened and assessed against inclusion criteria and the methodological quality of included studies was assessed using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool. Findings: In total, 20 articles were located that met the inclusion criteria. Five demand management approaches were identified, namely, walk-in models, triage processes, multi-disciplinary care, patient-led approaches and service delivery changes. Research limitations/implications: This review identifies effective approaches that services can consider adapting to their local setting; however, further research is needed to demonstrate the clinical effectiveness of services provided under these models. Originality/value: This review makes a valuable contribution to mental health care service delivery by detailing the strategies that services have adopted to manage demand and, where available, comparative outcomes with traditional service delivery models.