Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress (SPARCS)

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What is SPARCS?

Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress (SPARCS) is a strengths-based group model for youth ages 12-21 who have been exposed to chronic trauma and/or stress. Treatment consists of 16 one-hour sessions. SPARCS is appropriate for youth who experience functional impairments including difficulties with:

  • Regulating emotions, behaviors, and impulses
  • Maintaining healthy relationships
  • Paying attention and processing information
  • Managing physical complaints and other symptoms of chronic trauma and stress

The SPARCS is a good fit for agencies with:

  • Leadership and staff who strive to be trauma-informed in the services you provide
  • Leadership and staff who are committed to evidence-based and evidence-informed treatment
  • Experience serving adolescents and regular access to a large population of adolescents who would benefit from SPARCS
  • Space, resources, and funding to provide group treatment

The SPARCS is a good fit for group facilitators and group supports who:

  • Are excited about professional education opportunities and are willing and able to put time and energy into learning a new intervention
  • Are interested in providing evidence-based and evidence-informed treatment in creative ways which may differ from their typical approach
  • Are comfortable with a strengths-based approach that incorporates mindfulness and skill-building
  • Enjoy working with adolescents and are good at engaging this population

Service Delivery

SPARCS can be delivered in a variety of clinical and community settings (e.g., outpatient clinics, schools, residential treatment facilities.) SPARCS has also been successfully delivered in juvenile justice and child welfare settings.

Return on Investment

In the United States, 61% of children are affected by violence, abuse, or crime, putting them at increased risk for depression, academic problems, violent behavior, substance use, delinquency, teen pregnancy, and other emotional-behavioral challenges. Lifetime costs of childhood maltreatment are estimated at $210,012 per case.

Treatment Goals

Increase effective coping skills

Enhance self-efficacy and self-esteem

Cultivate awareness and mindfulness

Create meaning relative to experiences

Master developmental tasks unique to adolescence

Optimize communication and problem solving skills

Training Requirements

Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescent Responding to Chronic Stress (SPARCS) Learning Collaboratives train teams from community based mental health agencies and schools. Our model relies on clinicians training together with an administrative leader from their agency to ensure successful implementation and sustainability.

SPARCS Learning Collaboratives include 7 face-to-face training days with bi-weekly team consultation calls between training dates. In order to graduate, each team must deliver SPARCS to at least 2 groups.


Who Should Apply?

  • Community-based agencies currently serving adolescents with the capacity to provide group sessions are encouraged to apply.
  • Groups must be led by at least one group facilitator (clinician) and one other person trained in SPARCS. The most successful teams have a senior leader, 2 group facilitators, and a group support person.
  • When reviewing applications, preference will be given to committed teams with a highly supportive Senior Leader.


Team Member Requirements

SPARCS groups are usually led by 1 Group Facilitator and 1 Group Support OR 2 Group Facilitators.  Agency teams are led by 1 or more Senior Leaders.

Group Facilitator (clinician):

  • Responsible for leading SPARCS groups;
  • Holds a Master’s degree and professional licensure in a mental health or allied field;
  • Committed to timely and ongoing client identification and documentation;
  • Attends all face-to-face learning sessions and participates in bi-weekly, 60-minute consultation calls;
  • Committed to regular meetings with the agency team (at least monthly).

Group Support:

  • Responsible for assisting the Group Facilitator in running SPARCS groups;
  • Helps plan for group sessions (e.g., identifying appropriate activities, gathering materials and snacks, making copies of handouts);
  • Assists with group activities (e.g., taking attendance, contributing to the discussion and overall flow of the group);
  • Provides support to group members during group (e.g., assisting in management of behavior problems);
  • Attends all face-to-face learning sessions and encouraged to participate in bi-weekly, 60-minute consultation calls;
  • Committed to regular meetings with the agency team (at least monthly).

Senior Leader:

  • Responsible for supporting and overseeing SPARCS implementation;
  • Has authority to make decisions within the agency regarding time and resources;
  • Attends all face-to-face learning sessions and participates in monthly, 30-minute senior leader calls;
  • Committed to regular meetings with the agency team (at least monthly).

Implementation Costs

Visit the Training Opportunities page to see the training and related costs for upcoming trainings.

Training Opportunities

We offer 1 training cohort per year in SPARCS. Training cohorts are 12 months long and consist of face-to-face learning sessions and faculty consultation. Contact NC CTP for more information.