CHOC Children’s is offering teenagers experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition a new source of hope in a validating, supportive environment staffed by experts in adolescent mental health. The ASPIRE® (After School Program Interventions and Resiliency Education) Intensive Outpatient Program at CHOC Children’s will bring solutions to teens and their families who show moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety, depression or other mental health problems.
Participants ages 13 to 18 attend after-school programming for three hours a day, four days a week in sessions that span eight weeks total.
Run by experienced, licensed clinicians who specialize in working with teens, ASPIRE incorporates therapy, mindfulness exercises, coping and problem-solving skills, art therapy and other expressive therapies to help teens develop and practice healthy behaviors and learn how to manage their feelings, emotions and personal interactions.
Parents or guardians also participate in family counseling and skills groups two days a week in the late afternoon and early evening.
A board-certified adolescent psychiatrist is also available for consultations and medication management, as is case coordination with other medical providers and the teen’s school, and crisis support.
Teens who could benefit from the program may exhibit a range of behaviors:
- Moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Extreme emotional outbursts
- Significant conflict with family or friends
- Suicidal thoughts
- Decreases in functioning at home or school
- Self-harming behaviors
The program’s primary goal is to promote emotional wellness of young people. While in the program, youth will be provided a validating, supportive environment where they can focus on improving their emotional heath:
- Improvement in symptoms of anxiety, depression and anxiety
- Improved functioning at home, in school and with friends
- New skills to cope with stress
- Decrease in unsafe thoughts and behaviors
ASPIRE® is a component of CHOC’s landmark pediatric mental health system of care launched in spring 2015 to ensure children, adolescents and young adults with mental illness get the health care services and support they need.
The system of care also includes outpatient support for patients whose physical conditions are complicated by mental health challenges; mental health screenings for all 12-year-olds at their well child visits with CHOC pediatricians; and an increased presence of psychologists and social workers in the Julia & George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital.
The cornerstone of the wide-ranging effort is the CHOC Children’s Mental Health Inpatient Center. With 18 beds, it will be the first unit in Orange County to accommodate children younger than 12.
- Lisa Schneider, nurse manager in CHOC’s new Mental Health Inpatient Center, explains her passion for nursing and commitment to destigmatize mental health.
- The CHOC Children’s Mental Health Inpatient Center will provide Orange County’s first psychiatric inpatient beds for children younger than 12.
- Meet Dr. Micaela Thordarson, lead psychologist, ASPIRE® (After School Program Interventions and Resiliency Education) Intensive Outpatient Program at CHOC Children’s.