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Children's Homes of Cleveland County offers Specialized Youth Therapy Programs

The message board at Shelby High recently read, "Congratulations SPARCS Girls. Continue to Shine. Love, Melody and Jessica." It sounds like being a "SPARCS girl" is part of an afterschool club and while that is true, in a way, the SPARCS girls group is so much more.
SPARCS stands for Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress. Jessica Talbert and Melody Thompson are two therapists with Children's Homes of Cleveland County that are trained in SPARCS. SPARCS is a nationally-recognized therapeutic technique that has proven rehabilitative outcomes
According to Thompson, "We know that many youth in our community are experiencing more stressors than a typical teen: sexual abuse, physical abuse, traumatic death of a loved one, exposure to domestic and community violence and many other types of chronic stress." This therapeutic technique teaches traumatized and chronically stressed youth how to use positive coping skills, increase communication skills, maintain healthy relationships and improve their overall functioning in the school, home and community.
"We knew that the skills taught in SPARCS are critical to students' success. Yet even we were amazed at the impact this group made in the lives of these girls. They told us how they looked forward to group every week, how they were beginning to apply the skills they learned, and they really began to support and guide one another. We saw these girls blossom right before our eyes- it was an amazing process," Talbert adds.
According to Talbert, "One of the most important aspects of this group is helping youth make meaning of the traumatic, stressful events they have lived through. They come to believe that they are survivors, not victims, and that they are not defined by what has happened to them. They have the power to write their own story."
CHCC, a non-profit organization, seeks to enhance mental health services for Cleveland County by removing common barriers to treatment. Bringing SPARCS treatment to the community addresses two of the greatest barriers to accessing mental health treatment- transportation and stigma. Taking treatment directly to the client reduces time and cost constraints of transportation issues. Offering the service at schools or in the community where youth are already engaged reduces the stigma of seeking mental health treatment.
"Students are able to experience the therapeutic environment, enjoy the support and encouragement of their therapist and group members, and see that counseling is not as scary as they feared, and actually quite helpful," says Thompson.
Thanks to a generous grant, CHCC will also be providing a SPARCS group at the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland County this summer. Providing this group treatment allows therapists to reach more youth than traditional individual therapy. Last year, 130 individuals were served through CHCC's Outpatient Mental Health program; however, the agency maintains a waiting list of 10-15 clients and fields 40-50 new calls each month for services.
Thompson contends, "There is a real need for evidence based, trauma-focused treatment in our county." CHCC has the only Cleveland County based therapists trained in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, an evidence-based treatment for traumatized children and adolescents.
For more information on the CHCC therapy programs, contact the Children's Homes of Cleveland County, Inc. at 704-484-2558.
About CHCC
Children's Homes for Cleveland County, Inc. is an independent, not for profit agency serving children and families for more than 25 years that are in crisis due to abuse and neglect. CHCC's mission is to provide services to children and families in which they have the opportunity to come together to learn, to grow and to develop in a safe, stable environment - because we care. An array of supportive services have been developed including supervised visitation, social services to families, limited adoption services, outpatient mental health services, parenting education services, and community education and awareness.
Submitted by Shannon Kennedy

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