ASPIRE Consortium

ASPIRE: Helping young people find emotional health and create a life worth living

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Intensive Outpatient Mental Health Care for Ages 11 through 25

ASPIRE (After-School Program Interventions and Resiliency Education) is an intensive outpatient therapy program for young people ages 11 through 25 with anxiety, depression or other symptoms related to a mental health condition. Launched in 2009 in response to a series of tragic events in the Bay area involving youth who died by suicide, the program was designed by El Camino Health's mental health care team and uses powerful evidence-based methods, including dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

The ASPIRE approach to mental health care for young people has already shown success in helping youth and their families find their path to emotional wellness and wholeness. We're working to support health systems in launching their own ASPIRE programs to help young people across the Bay area and beyond. In light of the program's community impact, ASPIRE is now a consortium that includes Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, Mission Hospital and Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center. The ASPIRE Consortium brings together leaders in adolescent mental health to advance efforts to meet critical needs in our own communities and across the field.

ASPIRE | El Camino Health

ASPIRE Program

The ASPIRE Approach

The years from age 11 through 25 are full of challenges and opportunities that can set a course for the future. Although estimates vary, studies have shown that about half of mental health conditions present by age 11, and about 75% by age 24. Early and effective intervention can make an impact in helping young people learn coping skills that can see them through these critical years and help them build emotional health.

ASPIRE's approach is based on dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that focuses on regulating emotions, tolerating distress, improving interpersonal effectiveness, applying mindfulness and being able to take different perspectives. A team of clinicians, including a psychiatrist, mental health therapists and other specialists, collaborate to assess, diagnose and treat mental health conditions in a safe, supportive environment, with a focus on acquiring coping skills.

ASPIRE helps young people gain practical coping strategies through DBT, expressive arts and recreation groups. In addition to individual and group therapy, planned group activities allow participants to practice what they've learned in a supportive environment. When appropriate, family members have the opportunity to learn and participate in therapy.

ASPIRE's primary focus is offering solutions and providing hope. Our developmentally based tracks — middle school, high school and transitional age — provide a validating, supportive environment for participants to build effective behaviors and learn how to manage their emotions, relationships and response to life circumstances.

  • Middle School Program: A 10-week WASC-accredited program* designed for those in 6th through 8th grades. Programming is offered three times per week.
  • High School Program: This eight-week WASC-accredited program* is designed for students in 9th through 12th grades. Programming is offered four times per week.
  • QUEST: This 12-week WASC-accredited program* is designed for adolescents ages 13-18 who are still in high school and have an identified substance use disorder or other habitual problem behaviors, such as excessive screen use or video gaming. Programming is offered three times per week.
  • Transition Age Youth (TAY): This eight-week program is designed for young adults between 18 and 25 years old. Programming is offered four times per week.

WASC Accreditation: School Credit for ASPIRE Participants

El Camino Health's ASPIRE Program has received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

*This accreditation means that youth in grades 7 through 12 who complete the ASPIRE Program are eligible to receive up to five WASC-approved semester credit hours to be applied toward their graduation. Each school district and school determine whether credits (including the number and type of credit granted) are accepted toward graduation. By obtaining academic credit for focusing on essential wellness skills, the hope is that mental health treatment for youth will be destigmatized.

Building on Success: ASPIRE Consortium

The ASPIRE Consortium aims to grow and continuously improve all ASPIRE programs and gain insights into the mental health needs of the adolescent population by fostering open communication among healthcare organizations. The consortium model provides a forum to discuss common challenges and identify collaborative solutions — to more effectively meet the needs in our individual communities and across the field, now and into the future.

  • ASPIRE Consortium Members Share Their Perspectives (Click to expand)

    "Expanding youth mental health services through our ASPIRE Program has long been a goal of our work. Having served as a clinical psychologist in the program for several years, I have personally witnessed the life-changing impact and provision of hope this program has on youth, their families and the communities in which they participate. Families come to us in such a time of need, and the support and structure offered in the program help families shift from a place of suffering to a life worth living. The ASPIRE Consortium offers an exciting and welcomed opportunity to learn from one another and ensure that we are staying at the forefront of adolescent mental health treatment. Together we can serve more youth and families and share the knowledge and connection that comes through this wonderful program!"
    Nahal Zakerani, PhD, ASPIRE Consortium Coordinator

    "Building resiliency in our youth has significant impacts well beyond the family unit. The model offers an opportunity for communities, clinicians, schools and families to participate in this collaborative process."
    Joe Sandoval

    "Like the nation as a whole, Orange County has witnessed troubling growth in the number of teens in our communities who are not receiving the help they need for depression and other mental health issues. The resources we offer through ASPIRE provide teens and their families effective tools and resiliency training to overcome current mental health concerns, navigate future life stressors and thrive."
    Sina Safahieh, MD, Program Director of ASPIRE at Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute at Hoag; board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry

    "I believe in creating access to high-quality care for youth and families that empowers them to live the life they dream of."
    Carrie Shulman

    "With the global pandemic, not only have there been serious physical health issues and challenges, but severe consequences that have impacted the emotional and mental well-being of our communities, especially our families and teens. The ASPIRE team at Mission Hospital is dedicated to helping our teens and families through life's difficult experiences by providing the skills and knowledge to lead more effective and well-balanced lives."
    Melissa Hernandez

  • Resources (Click to expand)

    When a teen needs help, reach out for support.

  • Community Response to Youth Suicides (Click to expand)

  • Community Response in Orange County (Click to expand)

  • Philanthropic Support of Youth Mental Health Services (Click to expand)

Contact Us

To learn more about the ASPIRE Consortium or the ASPIRE programs, please contact Joseph Sandoval or Dr. Nahal Zakerani.