Neurobehavioral Health: ASPIRE - Adolescent Mental Health


Families across Orange County are facing significant and increasing challenges with their adolescents. Little support exists for children and their parents moving through this fragile stage of development. For many families, unaddressed neurobehavioral challenges have become devastating catastrophes.

In 2010, 30% of students in the Newport-Mesa school district reported drug abuse, 50% reported alcohol abuse, and the numbers continue to rise. Co-occurring mental health disorders feed and are fed by this substance abuse epidemic. If you are a parent of a teen in Orange County today, you likely have your own story – direct or indirect – to underscore this unfortunate reality. A recently published nationwide study documented that 1 of 7 young people had a major depressive episode in 2017.

Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute at Hoag has launched a programmatic answer to this glaring community need: ASPIRE (After School Program: Intervention and Resiliency Education) is an intensive outpatient program for adolescents, ages 13-17, with primary mental health disorders and possible co-occurring substance abuse challenges. The program is evidence-based and outcomes driven, and guides teens and their families through an eightweek curriculum of skills-based training in stress management, resiliency, interpersonal communication, mental health and substance abuse education.

Aspire Team
ASPIRE team at Hoag

The program is offered at Hoag’s Center for Healthy Living in Newport Beach, and in 2018 added an additional location in Irvine.

Program Summary:

  • Adolescents 13-17 and their parents
  • 8-week outpatient program; skills-based curriculum
  • 4 nights weekly for 3 hours; parents 2 nights weekly for multifamily group
  • Multidisciplinary team
  • Collaborative with local schools

Program Goals:

  • Early intervention
  • De-stigmatize mental illness and mental health care
  • Promote mental and behavioral health and well-being
  • Emphasize “skill building & resiliency training”; de-emphasize “therapy”
  • Empower parents for the unique demands of this life stage
  • Help adolescents navigate the challenges inherent in the age, and build a foundation for young adulthood

Community Partnership

Hoag is working in close collaboration with NewportMesa Unified School District, Irvine Unified School District and Tustin Unified School District. Hoag is positioned to support high school teens identified with mental health challenges by the school staff. Hoag and the school districts are working to provide high school credit to adolescents who complete the ASPIRE program.


The ASPIRE clinical team is led by Sina Safahieh, M.D. Dr. Safahieh is board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry, and provides the program’s medical and clinical leadership, creating a unique partnership between Hoag and CHOC to meet this community need. Prerna Rao, LMFT, is the clinical program manager. Prerna has developed the clinical team, structured the program content, and has positioned ASPIRE to be a model for adolescent mental health treatment. Prerna is overseeing the program’s clinical and patient experience outcomes.

ASPIRE also interfaces with Jerry Weichman, Ph.D., who specializes in outpatient mental health treatment for teens and their parents. Dr. Weichman operates The Weichman Clinic, and oversees the Teen Brain program there. Teen Brain brings together a multidisciplinary team of specialists housed at Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute to provide a unique and comprehensive diagnostic assessment and treatment planning service for struggling adolescents and young adults.

To learn more, visit the ASPIRE Program section or call 949-764-6360.