Program focus: Abuse, Autism, Behaviour Difficulty, Developmental Disability, LGBT, Mental Health, School, Sex Work, Skill Development, Trauma more…

Help Ahead: Access for Infants, Children, Youth & Families

Help Ahead is a free referral phone service to help connect infants, children, youth up to 18 years old and their families to mental health and addiction services in their community. Our goal is to help those in need find and get mental health help as efficiently and quickly as possible.

Anyone under the age of 18 experiencing a mental health issue or anyone who wants to support someone under the age of 18 and wants access to mental health services can call.

If you are a young person, you might call if you:

  • Feel anxious or worried
  • Feel depressed, sad or angry
  • Are being bullied
  • Don’t feel yourself…
  • Want more information about mental health and addiction services in your community.

If you are a parent/caregiver of an infant or child, you might call if:

  • Your infant/child is crying inconsolably; having tantrums; irregular sleep or eating patterns;
  • You are worried about your infant/child’s development; feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by parenting; or asking, “is this just a phase?”
  • You want more information about mental health and addiction services in your community.

Service providers, doctors, teachers, school social workers, child protection services and any other support service can call Help Ahead too for more information, but we will need the expressed consent of the person or parent to refer to a service.

Program focus: Abuse, Behaviour Difficulty, LGBT, Mental Health, Nutrition, School, Sex Work, Trauma more…

The What’s Up Walk-In® Clinic is Toronto’s only free, six day a week mental health counselling walk-in service for children, youth, young adults, and families. The clinic helps with issues such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal ideation, sexual identity matters, bullying, behavioural concerns, addictions, and anything else that might be on one’s mind. All the information you provide is confidential.

Therapists offer single sessions up to an hour long. We don’t judge. We will support you in your concerns and work collaboratively with you. The focus is on abilities, resources, and skills that you have, or you want to develop. Together we will target a priority concern and develop a plan with you that you feel comfortable with. If you feel you need more help, you can come back to the What’s Up Walk-In. All our therapists are clinically trained.

The clinic is barrier free, and accessible. No health card or appointment is necessary and it’s completely free!  The What’s Up Walk-In network is a collection of 6 agencies operating at 8 sites across the City of Toronto.

Hours of service

In-person Sessions at Strides Toronto (as of March 1, 2024)
Monday – Thursday, 12 PM – 8 PM
Friday, 12 PM – 5 PM
Saturday, 10 AM – 4 PM
Location: 1200 Markham Road, Suite 200, Scarborough

Virtual Sessions
Friday, 2 PM – 8 PM

To be connected to a counsellor for a telephone or video session, call us at 416-438-3697 press 1 and then enter ext. 12230 for reception.

  • Registration closed 1h 30 mins prior to the end of in-person service hours.
  • No appointment is necessary; first come, first served.
  • Face masks are recommended for in-person sessions.
  • Services closed on statutory holidays.

Supported by RBC:

In partnership with:

Program focus: Behaviour Difficulty

The Priority Access for Students (PAS) Program provides individual and family focused counselling services as well as case management for Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board students and their families.
Students who need support and help are identified and referred by their school social workers to this program. Counselling can be provided in home or in office and includes collaboration with the schools to support students and their families around their identified mental health needs.

The goal of PAS is to prepare youth to function independently and effectively within the school environment, the greater community and in the home. We also work to prevent youth from needing more intensive services like a Residential Treatment program in the future. Trained clinicians provide Individual and Family Therapy once a week or up to two times a week if needed. Sometimes workers will meet clients in their community, at their school, or in their home, but we encourage in-office sessions at flexible times during the day or evening.

We will also connect youth to community resources that might be difficult to access.

Program focus: Behaviour Difficulty, Child Welfare, Life Skills, Mental Health, Trauma

Priority Access for Child Welfare (PACW) Services helps children and youth that are at-risk of being placed in child welfare because of challenges at home; severe difficulties at school that could lead to loss of school placement; or has significant mental health and/or addiction issues and child welfare has become involved. Depending on the need of the family, therapists can meet with youth and their caregivers weekly or bi-weekly for 3 to 6 months.

The goals of the program are to reduce the severity of the difficulties in the home, improve relationships and reduce the risk for out-of-home placement. Services are offered in a range of settings (e.g. our office, the community, child welfare office and sometimes the home) using a treatment plan that is created collaboratively with the child/youth/family. Trained therapists provide children/youth/families with tools to help develop healthy behaviours, better relationships and enable youth to function positively and effectively in the home whilst addressing their mental health and/or addiction issues.

Referral details

A referral needs to be made to Strides Toronto by one of the Child Welfare agencies:

  • Children’s Aid Society Toronto (CAST)
  • Catholic Children’s Aid Society (CCAS)
  • Native Child and Family Services
  • Jewish Family and Child Services

The social worker from the Child Welfare agency will ask for consent from the family and send Strides Toronto the referral form asking the therapist to help support family. Our therapist will then contact the family directly and we will all agree a time to meet.

Program focus: Behaviour Difficulty, Child Welfare, Communication Skills, Mental Health, Socializing

Our Intensive Child and Family Service is offered to children and their caregivers who are experiencing social, emotional, and/or behavioural challenges that interfere with their daily lives and may lead to family breakdown in either their home, school and/or community. Often families eligible for this service are living with complex needs that may be impacting multiple domains of their lives.

Services are provided in-home, in-community, in-office or other settings which would be most helpful to supporting change. These services are provided by a Child and Family Therapist who will meet as frequently as required to help make a difference, offering service in a flexible manner that may include individual treatment, family and/or group therapy.

Referral details

Contact Strides Toronto Intake at 416-438-3697 ext. 19055 to initiate a referral.

Intake will help determine if Intensive Services is the most appropriate service for you or if there is an alternate service that may better meet your needs.

Program focus: Abuse, Behaviour Difficulty, Child Welfare, Mental Health, Trauma

The Infant Mental Health program offers a variety of family-focused, multidisciplinary mental health assessment and treatment services that are inclusive and accessible to all families living in Scarborough. Services are provided at Strides Toronto, in the home, or in the community at a time convenient for the family.

The program strives to strengthen parent child interactions by focusing on building positive family relationships to improve healthy social and emotional development of infants and children (birth to 3 years old) in partnership with their families and communities.

Parents with young children under the age of 3 years who are concerned about their children’s behaviour (separation anxiety, sleep difficulties, eating concerns, excessive crying, or challenging behaviour) are eligible for this service.

Program focus: Behaviour Difficulty, Communication Skills, Mental Health, Parenting

Family Counselling is intended to help caregivers explore their concerns about their child with a trained therapist. The goals of counselling services are to help your family get an understanding of your concerns and to enhance problem solving skills; as well, to give your family an opportunity to learn effective ways to cope with any different challenges.

Benefits of Family Counselling may include:

  • Receiving help to define family goals
  • Finding ways of achieving the goals and improving communication in your relationships
  • Learning new information about your child’s personality or development
  • Connecting or coordinating services with other community groups and activities
  • Communicating with your child’s school or day care
  • Learning more effective or useful parenting strategies
  • Receiving an assessment to help with treatment planning (e.g., psychological assessment)
  • Experiencing a safe place to talk about painful events that have affected your child

Access to this group is through Intake.

Program focus: Behaviour Difficulty, Life Skills, Mental Health, School, Trauma

The Day Treatment – Youth program provides an educational setting combined with therapy that helps young people to deal with a variety of problems and helps them to return to the school system or enter the work force. Youth eligible for Day Treatment are between 12 to 18 years old and are not able to succeed in a community school.

The student’s schedule includes three academic periods and one period of therapy, including Adolescent Life Skills and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). The focus on therapy allows youth to explore personal areas of strength and focus on development skills in the areas of: mood regulation, anger management, communication skills, relationship building, self-esteem/self-awareness, responsibility, stress management, substance use, and problem solving. Youth take part in planning their own program and future goals. Each classroom is staffed by an Strides Toronto Child and Youth Worker and a TDSB teacher. An Individual and Family Therapist is also assigned to the young person and their family to help navigate day treatment services and provide ongoing counselling

In general, youth that are referred to the program have at least one of the below diagnoses:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Bipolar Affective Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Psychosis
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Major Depression
  • Conduct Disorder
  • Learning Disability
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Personality Disorder.

In addition, many of these youths have difficulties with peers, authority figures, family members and/or involvement with youth criminal justice system. The average length of treatment is one year, with three to six months of follow-up to ensure a successful transition to mainstream or alternative program as well as consultation with agency psychologist and consulting psychiatrist on a regular basis.

Strides Toronto’s Day Treatment Program operates in cooperation with the Toronto District School Board and is open to youth residing in Scarborough, from all Toronto School Boards.

We have five Day Treatment Programs:

  • Highschool: Two programs at Cedarbrae Collegiate & one program at Winston Churchill Collegiate
  • Elementary: Grades 7 and 8 at Charles Gordon Senior Public School and Donview Middle School

We also offer a Youth Justice Day Treatment Program. This is a high school program for young people up to 21 years old that are involved with the Youth Justice System. This is done in partnership with Springboard. We serve youth from around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). To access this service, you must be referred by probation through Springboard.

Service Duration
On average students remain in our program for a year. Some stay for one semester and others can stay for longer. The program is individualized, and length of stay is discussed / agreed upon with the client / family and treatment team.

Students entering the program need to have an expressed mental health concern and be open and committed to engaging in counselling.

Our program is not ideal for youth who present with intellectual disabilities given the intensive cognitive based therapy modality.

Referral details

  • Youth or family member can call Help Ahead at 1-866-585-6486.
  • You will then be required to complete a telephone intake.
  • Referrals can be sent by schools / TDSB Centralized Intake, but clients and families still need to contact intake to provide consent to service.

Program focus: Behaviour Difficulty, Life Skills, Mental Health, School, Trauma

Day Treatment is an intensive therapeutic classroom setting for children, aged 4-12, experiencing social, emotional or behavioural issues and who have had difficulty being successful in their current school environment. These children and their caregivers may also be at risk for breakdown in their home and/or community.

The program is based on a multidisciplinary milieu treatment model that provides in-class care, family treatment and group therapy. Members of the milieu team include: Child Therapists who work in the classroom, providing evidence based group intervention with the children and individual support to the children as needed; Child and Family Therapists who work with the children providing individual treatment, family treatment and group therapy; Teachers who work in the classroom teaching the academic work; a Consulting Psychologist who conducts assessments, provides clinical consultation; and Supervisors-Day Treatment/Family Treatment Services who provide clinical supervision. Service duration is determined in collaboration between the caregiver and the multidisciplinary milieu team. One year of treatment is the recommended length of service.

There are six classrooms of approximately six students each in three separate schools. Two of the schools are in the Toronto District School Board and one is in the Toronto Catholic District School Board. The Strides Toronto Day Treatment program serves East Toronto (Scarborough) and East York region of Toronto.

Caregiver Readiness

Caregivers are in a state of readiness to make use of the intensive program including weekly participation. Group attendance is mandatory and occurs weekly between September and December. Caregivers participate in weekly family sessions for the remainder of the academic year.

Eligibility details

  • Children aged 4 – 12 years
  • Children are not managing in their current academic environment due to social, emotional and/or behavioural challenges.
  • Children do not require 1:1 staffing support to manage.

Referral details

All referrals are made through Help Ahead, Central Point of Intake, 1-866-585-6486. Referrals can be made by the family or other professionals working with the family.  Once the referral is received, a Help Ahead staff will reach out to the family to discuss options.

Highland Heights Junior Public School
35 Glendower Circuit
Scarborough, ON

Vradenburg Junior Public School
50 Vradenburg Drive
Scarborough, ON

Holy Name Catholic School
690 Carlaw Avenue
Toronto, ON

Strides Toronto
Monday – Friday, 8:30 AM – 8PM
325 Milner Avenue
Scarborough, ON

Program focus: Abuse, Behaviour Difficulty, Mental Health

Our Community Counselling program helps children, youth and their families understand, overcome and manage personal problems and/or mental health issues. This might include feeling overwhelmed, anxious or depressed, dealing with trauma, addiction, behaviour issues, or conflicts in relationships with peers or within the family. This might include anxiety, depression, trauma, addiction, behaviour issues, or conflicts in relationships and within the family.

The goal of community counselling is to provide therapy, either individually or with families/caregivers, to help the child, young person and/or family explore options, find solutions, develop coping strategies, identify strengths, locate information, provide resources and promote healing, resiliency and self-empowerment so the young person can be successful in their home, school and community.

Our staff are clinically trained in a variety of counselling styles and approaches. We will work with you to meet you where you’re at and to determine the best type of therapy for you.

What to expect?

In your first session you will learn about the service, get to know the therapist, we want to get to know you and what you may be struggling with, you can ask questions, see if we are a right fit for you, or if another program may be better suited to your needs

To learn more about some of the benefits and risks of counselling, visit our FAQ page!

You can also access our What’s Up Walk-In service and you feel you need longer term counselling, let the therapist know and they can direct you.

Referral details

Self-Referral: A youth or family can refer themselves to Community Counselling. Just ask to speak to our intake line. If a family or caregiver is calling on behalf of the youth, Intake will schedule a time to contact the youth to get verbal consent before continuing with the intake process.