A little bit of light can push away much darkness
Home      About SPARCS
     This intervention is strength-based and is appropriate for traumatized adolescents with or without current/lifetime PTSD.  SPARCS aims to help chronically traumatized adolescents find  that “sparc” of light within themselves and enhance their strengths and resilience.  As a strength-based approach, SPARCS was designed to help adolescents find the wisdom in their responses, support skills they already possess, and foster new ways of coping.   
     SPARCS is a present-focused intervention, and is not an exposure based model.  Although there is no direct exposure component or construction of a trauma narrative, traumas are discussed in the context of how they relate to adolescents’ current behavior and to their understanding of their problems and difficulties in the here and now.   
Groups are one hour in length and have been provided in a variety of settings including outpatient clinics, schools, group homes, boarding schools, residential treatment centers and facilities, juvenile justice centers, and foster care programs.
     To date SPARCS has been conducted with ethnically diverse groups, including African American, Latino, Native American, LGBTQ, and refugee/immigrant populations, as well as adolescents in gangs and in rural settings. SPARCS has also been implemented with adolescents in foster care and in shelters with runaway/homeless youth. Some SPARCS handouts are available in Spanish and have been used with Spanish speaking youth and their caregivers.
Status of Research:   
     Pilot data indicate significant improvement in overall functioning over the course of treatment (as measured by the Youth Outcome Questionnaire SR-2.0) for adolescents receiving SPARCS, with significant changes noted more specifically on subscales measuring conduct problems, inattention/hyperactivity, and interpersonal relationships.  There was also a significant decline in PTSD symptoms, with improvements noted in the overall severity of posttraumatic stress symptoms, as well as in scores assessing symptoms related to re-experiencing, avoidance, hyper-arousal (Criterion B, C, and D respectively). 
     Encouraging results were also found in an Evidence Based Practices Pilot Program conducted by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in conjunction with The Mental Health Services and Policy Program at Northwestern University, with improvements noted on several of the subscales of the YOQ, including somatic complaints and anxious/depressive symptomatology.  The pilot also compared SPARCS to treatment as usual using the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) instrument. 
     Results indicated that SPARCS was associated with significant improvements in Risk Behaviors as compared to the treatment as usual group. Furthermore, adolescents receiving SPARCS were half as likely to run away, and one-fourth less likely to experience placement interruptions (e.g.  arrests, hospitalizations) than a comparison group.