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We are here for the youngest members of our community. Our Master’s level clinicians treat a wide variety of youth mental health diagnoses and behavioral concerns such as: anger and aggression, poor school performance, defiant behavior, substance abuse, hyperactivity and difficulty focusing, depression, anxiety, social skills, and trauma.

We have adopted a CORE Wellness™ philosophy meaning we go beyond traditional counseling to address the physical, social and spiritual needs of the youth we serve. Our goal is to help children exceed socially, stop destructive behaviors, connect with others and learn positive behavioral skills while instilling confidence and a sense of purpose that will leave youth feeling empowered.

Support from the Hamilton Community Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Committee

Youth First is grateful for the generosity of the Hamilton Community Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Committee. Thanks to a grant they awarded Community Behavioral Health & Youth First, the Teen Intervention Program will be able to offer to its participants a variety of activities, which allows for development and awareness of different coping skills to minimize symptoms associated with substance abuse/use, and mental health diagnoses among the youth population. Boxing, Pilates, yoga, and art, as examples, increase the youths’ coping skills, mindfulness and self-actualization, thus reducing likelihood of relapse and contributing to decreases in mental health symptoms. Learning new coping skills is essential to the overall mental, physical and emotional well-being for our youth clients. Thank  you Hamilton Community Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Committee!

Youth First Services

TIP is designed to help adolescents unlearn their substance use patterns and to address some family and social factors that contribute to their use. Adolescents experience peer pressure and other cues every day that trigger cravings and thoughts about using. The TIP teaches adolescents skills to abstain from substance use in these situations and thus break the association between substance use and the myriad of cues associated with that use. Consistent with conditioning theory, if adolescents successfully resist using substances in these situations, conditioned withdrawal, craving and/or thoughts about using will reduce and ultimately extinguish over time. This is a program based on the Teen Matrix program from Hazelden.

Program Highlights:

  • Adolescent Outpatient program with 2x weekly sessions for 2 hours and 1x monthly sessions for one hour
  • 90 day program in lieu of probation and/or suspension or expulsion from school to keep adolescent in school
  • 3 Random Urine Drug Screens while in treatment
  • Teens will need to meet the education or abuse criteria for treatment. A family session with the teen’s main support system must occur before the individual can complete treatment
  • Focus is on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing techniques during group and individual sessions
  • Teen will maintain high attendance rate to ensure client absorbs all material
  • Teen and parent will need to sign a release in order to relay information to schools/probation departments

We recognize that every child’s situation is different. Our clinicians use a variety of evidence-based practices such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Trauma Focused Therapy and Play Therapy based on your child’s specific needs.

Held in a private, confidential location at school, our clinicians may counsel your child and observe them in their school setting. The counselor may also coordinate with teachers and staff to gain better insight about their specific needs.


“Ella was really struggling in school. She was being bullied, which affected her behavior. She had a fear of rejection. Counseling has truly changed her whole life for the better. She’s gained a sense of confidence and purpose that wasn’t there before. She’s found herself, and she’s happy- and I couldn’t be happier.”

– Christina K, mother of Youth First Client

Family sessions may be held in our office or the home and may include parents, guardians, siblings and other family members that play an important role in the child’s life.

Our team’s licensed psychiatrist specializes in children’s mental health and provides an extra level of support for your child with the ability to evaluate and prescribe medication as appropriate.

Our specialists are able to develop customized support groups when there is need. These could include School & Social Readiness groups for our youngest clients or Trauma, Self-Esteem & Addiction groups for teens. We collaborate with schools and community centers to offer programs targeting the specific needs of the youth they serve.

For more information on Youth First services, please contact:

Leah Merkle, LSW
Youth First Mental Health/AOD Clinician
w 513.424.0921 x25    513.200.6523

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