Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress (SPARCS)

The information in this program outline is provided by the program representative and edited by the CEBC staff. This program has been reviewed by the CEBC in the following Topic Areas:

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About This Program

Target Population: Traumatized adolescents with a history of exposure to chronic interpersonal trauma (such as ongoing physical abuse) and/or separate types of trauma (e.g. community violence, sexual assault), many of whom are still living with ongoing stress and unstable environments and/or complexly traumatized adolescents with or without current/lifetime PTSD

Brief Description

SPARCS is a present-focused, 16-session manually guided group treatment. It is specifically designed to improve the emotional, social, academic, and behavioral functioning of adolescents exposed to chronic interpersonal trauma (such as ongoing physical abuse) and/or separate types of trauma (e.g., community violence, sexual assault). The curriculum was designed to address the needs of adolescents who may still be living with ongoing stress and may be experiencing problems in several areas of functioning. This can includes difficulties with affect regulation and impulsivity, self-perception, relationships, somatization, dissociation, numbing and avoidance, and struggles with their own purpose and meaning in life, as well as worldviews that make it difficult for them to see a future for themselves.

SPARCS is based primarily on cognitive-behavioral principles and teaches skills to foster resilience and enhance group members' current strengths. Experiential activities and discussion topics have been specifically developed for use with adolescents, and are designed to capitalize on developmental considerations that are particularly relevant for teenagers (e.g., issues related to autonomy and identity). It should be noted that SPARCS is a present-focused intervention, and is not an exposure-based model. Although there is no direct exposure component (e.g., no construction of a trauma narrative), traumas are discussed in the context of how they relate to the adolescents’ current behaviors and to their understanding of their problems and difficulties in the here and now.

The curriculum, which draws from the core components of complex trauma treatment, incorporates techniques from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Trauma and Grief Components Therapy (TGCT), and early versions of Trauma Adaptive Recovery Group Education and Therapy (TARGET). These techniques are utilized with participants throughout many of the group sessions.

Program Goals:

The overall goals of Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress (SPARCS) are:

  • “The Four C’s”:
    • Coping more effectively in the moment
    • Connecting with others and establishing supportive relationships
    • Cultivating awareness
    • Creating meaning in their lives

Contact Information

Mandy Habib, PsyD
Agency/Affiliation: Adelphi University
Department: Dept. of Psychiatry
Email:
Phone: (917) 710-7335
Victor Labruna
Agency/Affiliation: Adelphi University
Department: Dept. of Psychiatry
Email:
Phone: (516) 672-3859

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: December 2015

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: October 2014

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: May 2006