Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress (SPARCS)

Young people in the care system have suffered and experienced acute trauma, neglect, and loss in one form or another, which all contribute to the development of unhealthy attachment styles.

These children respond to trauma and stress, with symptoms of Complex PTSD symptoms, which include:

Problems with Affect and Impulse Regulation (Anger; Self-Destructive Behaviour and Risk Taking; Suicidal Ideation; and Modulation of Sexual Behaviour)

Problems with Attention and Consciousness (Amnesia, Transient Dissociative Episodes; and Depersonalisation)

Problems with Self-Perception (A Sense of Ineffectiveness and Permanent Damage; Guilt; Shame; and Minimising Traumatic Experiences)

Problems in Relations with Others (Inability to Trust; Problems Relating to Others; Re-Victimisation; and Victimising Others)

Somatisation (Physical Symptoms; Chronic Pain)

Problems with Systems of Meaning (Sense of Foreshortened Future; Problems Sustaining Beliefs; and Maladaptive World Views)

QPC has recognised the lack of provision for children suffering from Complex Trauma and has developed a new and innovative approach, designed in the US called SPARCS. Staff have been specially trained by one of the developers of SPARCS, Dr Mandy Habib.

SPARCS is a 16-week intensive programme, which has been adapted in consultation with the US team to work within our homes providing real tangible therapeutic support for young people, enabling them to rationalise their experience and giving them the tools to cope.

QPC has utilised the SPARCS programme and adapted it for group living and created the UK’s first SPARCS Therapeutic Community and Therapeutic Mental Health Provision.

Our SPARCS Programme draws on evidence-based trauma treatment strategies such as CBT, DBT, and Trauma Adaptive Recovery Group Education and Therapy.

Within our structured programme, young people explain their cycles of maladaptive behaviour (MUP’s “Mess you ups”), which can include: self-injury; absconding; and using alcohol and drugs.

Strategies to develop the children’s ability to self-regulate and reflect are developed throughout the programme which places an emphasis on mindfulness and developing meaning and self-acceptance.

The programme has been running for 18-months and last year, we applied for DfE innovation funding with Edge Hill University.  We have now (July 2018) completed a study to provide a survey of carers experiences of SPARCS and the impact of SPARCS on levels of self-harm within the YPs, which can be found here: SPARCS SURVEY July 18. For more information about SPARCS and our intentions and results please contact us.

Additional background information regarding SPARCS can be found online: