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What is Mental Health? The Importance of Pediatric Counselling

Mental health is a critical aspect of well-being that often does not receive the attention it deserves. The Families First Pediatrics team is dedicated to providing full pediatric services in Utah, to include mental health services and pediatric counselling for both children and families alike. 

Meet Our Therapists

Lori Jo Leonard, LCSW - Families First Pediatrics
Lori Jo Leonard, LCSW

We are excited to welcome Lori Jo Leonard, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, to the Families First Pediatrics team. She has over 15 years of clinical experience in working with children, adolescents, adults, and families. Lori Jo has worked with people struggling with anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. 

CeLisa Steele, Therapist

We are also excited to bring on board CeLisa Steele, a mental health provider here at our office. CeLisa has been in practice over 10 years, working both in public services and non-profit sectors, coupled with 7 years experience working with children and teenagers.

Candace Basile, LCSW

Candace Basile is a licensed clinical social worker with the state of Utah with experience in residential and outpatient therapy. This includes individual, couple, family, and group therapy with children, adolescents, adults and seniors. Candace earned a Master of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Southern California majoring in mental health with a minor in military lifestyle.

Tiffany Grimes, Therapist Intern

Tiffany is our therapist intern and is currently attending Simmons University – Boston, Massachusetts, completing a Master’s Degree in Social Work. She graduates in May 2020.

What is Mental Health? defines mental health as “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.” While regular immunizations and medical checkups are important, mental health is an equally critical component to overall well-being. 

Our state of mental health can be determined by a multitude of factors: from life experiences like trauma, family history of mental illness, and biological factors such as brain chemistry. Not one factor determines mental health, so a variety of situations could contribute to how we are feeling at any given moment. 

Mental health is not only a consideration for adults, but for children as well. Our mental health is critical to how we develop socially and cognitively, from early childhood all the way through adulthood. It is especially important in a family environment; the mental health of one individual, whether a parent or a child, could affect the entire family. 

Why is Mental Health Important? 

Mental health is important since mental health can impact every aspect of life. Mental health is like an ecosystem, with interlocking factors coming together to influence how you feel on a day-to-day basis. 

Your mental health can impact everything from relationships, jobs, schoolwork, and even whether or not you enjoy the activities you normally enjoy. The current state of one’s mental health determines how they handle stress, relate to friends and family, and how they make choices. Simply, mental health affects how you navigate through the world around you. 

Taking care of our mental health is just as important as an annual checkup, brushing our teeth, and eating well. Since mental health impacts every aspect of life from relationships to activities you enjoy, maintaining a positive baseline of mental health is critical. 

Mental Health Services in Utah - Families First Pediatrics

When to See A Mental Health Professional

Whether it is you or your family member, recognizing the time to get help can be challenging and depends on the situation. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recommends that for children, the earlier treatment is started, the better. While it can be hard to tell if your child’s behavior is simply a part of adolescence or a problem to discuss with a mental health professional, the NIMH recommends a young child may benefit from counselling if they:

  • Have frequent tantrums
  • Complain about health issues such as stomach aches or headaches with no known medical cause
  • Sleep too much or too little and have low energy
  • Are not interested in playing with others
  • Recently began struggling academically
  • Repeat actions or check things many times

For older children or teens, the NIMH recommends to see a mental health professional if they: 

  • Have lost interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Spend too much time alone
  • Sleep too much or too little and have low energy
  • Engage in self-harm behaviors like cutting
  • Engage in risky or destructive behavior
  • Report that someone is trying to control their mind or are hearing things others cannot hear

If you’re concerned about your child’s behavior, then it’s likely time to see a mental health professional. Get in touch with us to see if we can help. 

How Families First Pediatrics Can Help

Mental health isn’t just for adults, but children too. Families First Pediatrics specializes in providing treatment for children. We also recognize that many factors contribute to mental health, so Families First Pediatrics also specializes in providing mental health services for whole families too. We know that providing services to the whole family can benefit everyone.

Our mental health professionals first meet with you to get to know about you and your family’s state of mental health. We discuss concerns, fears, and your goals for counselling. After an initial evaluation, Families First Pediatrics works to develop a plan that fits your needs. 

Families First Pediatrics mental health services may include help in the following areas:

  • Diagnostic Evaluations
  • Individual Therapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Parent Training
  • Medication Management

We evaluate, provide treatment, and find appropriate services for children and families in Utah with the following challenges or difficulties:

  • Asperger’s Disorder
  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Autism
  • Bipolar Disorders (Manic Depression)
  • Conduct Disorder
  • Depressive Disorders
  • Developmental Disorders
  • Encopresis (fecal incontinence)
  • Enuresis (involuntary urination, especially by children at night)
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Parenting Skills Training
  • Habit Related Disorders
  • Learning Disorders
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Phobias
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Preschool Disruptive Behavior
  • Selective Mutism
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder
  • Sleep Related Difficulties
  • Social Anxiety
  • Trichotillomania

Contact Our Mental Health Professionals Today

Sometimes taking the first step is a challenge, but Families First Pediatrics is here to help provide professional children’s mental health services and counselling in Utah. Our approach is simple: our counselors want to get to know you and your family to provide the appropriate mental health services for your family. Contact us at one of our pediatric locations in South Jordan and Riverton.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mental Health:

What does a mental health counselor do?

Mental health counselors meet with you (or your family) to assess what mental health services you may require. Once we understand your unique situation, Families First Pediatrics works to develop the appropriate plan of action to provide the mental health services you, your child, or your family needs. 

What does a pediatric social worker do?

Pediatric social workers work in both inpatient and outpatient medical settings to provide assistance to children who are experiencing either chronic medical conditions or several medical conditions. Pediatric social workers also work with families to provide emotional support and care coordination services, along with communicating with medical teams and other important resources. If your child is experiencing a chronic medical condition or several medical conditions, Families First Pediatrics can help by providing critical resources.

When to seek mental health services?

If you notice a drastic change in the mental health of you or a family member, then it is time to seek mental health services. For more information, see the National Institute of Mental Health’s page of warning signs.  

When to seek counseling for a child?

If your child is showing unusual behavior such as tantrums, too much or too little sleep, lack of energy, struggling academically, repeating actions, engaging in risky or self-destructive behavior, it may be time to seek counseling and mental health services for your child. The National Institute of Mental Health recommends that the sooner a child begins treatment, the better. Contact Families First Pediatrics or a mental health professional if you believe your child needs care. For more information on when to see a counselor for older children and teens, visit our blog

How are mental health services paid for? Does Medicaid pay for mental health services?

According to, the Affordable Care Act requires most individual, small group, and Medicaid health insurance plans to cover mental health services. Employers plans differ on whether mental health services are covered. The best way to determine if your insurance covers mental health services are to look at your plan’s enrollment materials or to get in touch. To see which health insurance plans we accept, see our health insurance page.


Mental Health Resources

Resources for Anxiety

Diagnosis and Support

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) 

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)

Utah Parent Center


Calm, Mindshift, Headspace, Worry Watch, MoodTools, Pacifica, Breathe Think Do Sesame, Stop Breathe and Think Kids, Breathing Bubbles, Mighter


Stop Anxiety from Stopping You by Dr. Helen Odessky 

Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster by Michelle Nelson-Schmidt

Outsmarting Worry by Dawn Huebner, PhD

Worry Says What? by Allison Edwards

Coping Skills for Kids Workbook by Janine Halloran, MA, LMHC

What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner, PhD

The Anxiety Cure for Kids: A Guide for Parents by Spencer, DuPont, and DuPont

If Your Adolescent Has An Anxiety Disorder: An Essential Resource for Parents by Edna B. Foa

Help for Worried Kids: Your Child Can Conquer Anxiety and Fear by Cynthia G. Last

The Anxiety Workbook for Teens by Lisa M Schab, LCSW

Keys to Parenting Your Anxious Child by Katharina Manassis

Treating Childhood and Adolescent Anxiety: A Guide for Caregivers by Leowitz and Omer

Websites,, (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) (National Institute for Mental Health),

Download the Anxiety Resources PDF


Resources for Depression

Depression is not a personality or character flaw, it does not define who you are, nor make you any less of a person. It is a condition just like diabetes or the flu and should not be something that you are ashamed of.

Diagnosis and Support

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Coping Skills/Tools

  • Self Care: eat healthy, exercise daily, get at least eight hours of sleep nightly, maintain positive relationships with family and friends, engage in hobbies or activities that you enjoy. 
  • Make and keep supportive friendships and other relationships. It is very common when you are feeling depressed to want to isolate yourself from others. Connection is one of the greatest tools to fighting depressive symptoms. 
  • Deep breathing: Take a deep breath in through your nose, pause, then breath out slowly through your mouth. 
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: Tense the muscle groups in your body, one at a time. Then, relax that muscle group for 15 seconds before moving on to the next muscle group. 
  • Accept what you cannot control and focus your thought and energy on the things that you can control. 
  • Avoid guilt, shame, or blame. Focus instead on problem solving, and how to move forward.
  • Identify and talk about your feelings with someone that you trust (preferably an adult). 
  • Break down chores and tasks into smaller steps. This can help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and keep you motivated. 
  • Challenge unhealthy or unhelpful thoughts: Avoid thinking traps such as over-generalization, all or nothing thinking, mind reading, and jumping to conclusions. Identify and challenge these unhealthy thoughts and try to replace them with a more helpful thought. 
  • Practice mindfulness or grounding exercises. 
  • Draw or write about your feelings. 
  • Listen to music or play a musical instrument. 
  • Get outside and go for a walk or hike. 
  • Visualize a calm or peaceful place: Think of your favorite place, notice what you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. 
  • Ask for help, Cuddle or play with a pet, Get or give a hug. 
  • Get moving: engage in intensive cardio exercise (such as running) for 30 minutes. 
  • Stay focused and centered in the present (don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future).

Parental Support

  • If there are firearms in the home, please ensure that they are not accessible to your child (your hidden key may not be as “hidden” as you would like to believe). 
  • Reach out to a professional or school counselor for help. 
  • Be responsive instead of reactive when talking to your child. 
  • Let your child know that you are available and open to talking with him or her about their problems or feelings. Avoid lecturing or similar forms of communication that may cause disconnection. 
  • With your child, come up with a plan to manage technology use, including social media. 
  • Assist your child with self-care by structuring bedtime and sleeping routines, and encouraging healthy eating practices, and regular exercise. 
  • Hug your child every day, multiple times a day. 
  • Maintain consistent family routines and rituals, such as eating dinner together as a family. 
  • Remember that it is not your job to “fix” your child, but to be his or her advocate and cheerleader.


SafeUT, Suicide Safe, Virtual Hope Box, Mindshift, Headspace, Stop Breathe and Think Kids, Happify, What’s Up, MoodTools 


Conquer Negative Thinking for Teens by Alvord, Karapetian, and McGrath 

Beyond the Blues by Lisa Schab 

Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life for Teens by Van Dijk 

Adolescent Depression: A Guide for Parents by Mondimore and Kelly 

My Feeling Better Workbook by Sara Hamil 

How To Get Unstuck From the Negative Muck by Lake Sullivan 

My Many Colored Days by Dr. Suess 

The Way I Feel by Janan Cain

Websites (National Institute for Mental Health)

Download the Resources for Depression PDF

Resources for Families and Children with ADHD

A non-profit organization designed to help educate, support, and advocate for families affected by ADHD. There is information on local support groups, parent to parent training, conferences, etc. 

Utah Parent Center – website for parent resources and education 

Jordan Family Education Center – 

Also may check local school district parent information/education center 


ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life by Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau 

ADD and the College Student: A Guide for High School and College Students with Attention Deficit Disorder, Revised Edition, Edited by Quinn, Patricia O., 2001 

ADD Quick Tips by Carla Crutsinger & Debra Moore 

Driven to Distraction by Edward Hallowell and John Ratey 

8 Keys to Parenting Children with ADHD by Cindy Goldrich 

Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents by Peg Dawson, EdD

From Chaos to Calm: Effective Parenting for Challenging Children with ADHD and Other Behavioral Problems by J. Heininger and S. Weiss 

The Gift of Adult ADD by Lara Honos-Webb 

Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning by Joyce Cooper-Kahn 

Smart but Scattered by Peg Dawson 

Smart Kids with Learning Difficulties (includes ADHD) by Rich Weinfeld and Linda Barnes-Robinson 

Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents by Russell Barkley, Ph.D. 

Teaching Teens with ADD & ADHD by A. Zeigler Dendy

You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy? by Kate Kelly

Download the Resources for ADHD PDF

Why Choose
Families First Pediatrics?

"Very personable, and really takes the time to answer any questions and make you feel comfortable. Everyone on the staff was very friendly and helpful. My toddler loved coming here, and so did I."

- Bonnie E. -

"We have 3 little boys under the age of 7. Dr Zarbock is such a fun doctor! My boys love him and he is super knowledgeable. I feel like we are always treated well and other than the fact that we are usually sick when we go there it is a very pleasant experience!"

- Andrew Brown -

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