Trauma Informed Care

In the spring of 2011, the Copper Hills Youth Center’s leadership team began the journey of creating a trauma-informed model of care for our residents and staff. Recognizing the profound role of trauma and attachment wounds that shape so much of the behavioral problems that result in residential placement, Copper Hills has embarked on an ambitious trauma initiative to create a true ‘trauma- informed’ care model that provides the blueprint for our approach to treatment. There are four key elements to our model: building a trauma-informed treatment program that is evidenced based; using measures to objectively assess treatment effects and gains; creating a competency-based awareness about the effects of trauma for all staff who provide care at Copper Hills; and providing resources, support and tools for staff to care for themselves as they work in this challenging environment.

SPARCS (Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress)

SPARCS is a manualized, skill-based program created for adolescents who have experienced trauma and complex stress and can be delivered in 16 week and 32 week ‘blocks’. SPARCS uses Dialectical Behavioral Treatment (DBT), Trauma Adaptive Recovery Group Education and Therapy (TARGET) and School-based Trauma/Grief Group Psychotherapy. Therapists work with adolescents to practice the “The Four C’s”:

  • Cultivate awareness
  • Cope more effectively
  • Connect with others
  • Create meaning and purpose

Copper Hills Youth Center uses SPARCS as its primary treatment platform across all offered programs. Residents move through the curriculum with their assigned group therapist. Additionally, SPARCS is used in staff led and resident led groups. It is a core component of daily life at Copper Hills Youth Center, and a foundation of recovery.

Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP)

Copper Hills Youth Center continues to expand our trauma informed model by also focusing treatment on the core issues of attachment by using DDP. We recognize the complexity of treating symptoms caused by insecure attachments, and often a simple behavioral approach does not produce lasting changes. This model addresses the loss of empathy and engagement, which often happens with high needs youth; called “blocked care.” The model is a powerful intervention for youth, staff, and families to repair relationship failures and restore compassion and empathy by introducing relational strategies to guide staff and parents in interactions with our youth.

Measuring Treatment Effects and Outcomes

Measuring treatment effects and outcomes is a core component of effective treatment. All residents will receive a trauma assessment at the start of care with their primary therapist. This assessment will be the critical compass that guides our treatment team. Additionally all youth have pre and post treatment assessments including the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale and the Child and Adolescent Behavior Assessment for Youth (CABA-Y). Other treatment effects are measured on an individualized basis, driven from the core focus of their unique treatment goals.

Resiliency has been shown to be both a predictor of long-term psychological recovery and wellbeing as well as a quality that can be strengthened through appropriate treatment and improve the odds of success after discharge. As a core component of our Challenge Recreation Therapy (RT) program, each resident will be evaluated using the Connor-Davidson Resiliency scale (CD-RISC). The CD-RISC scale is used to measure treatment effects on this critical capacity.

Trauma Competency

  • • All clinical staff receives training in SPARCS, treating traumatic stress in children and adolescents (ARC model), DDP, and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Additionally, some clinicians specialize or hold certifications in therapies such as EMDR, NOJOS, and play therapy.
  • Mental Health Technicians who provide milieu based skills groups receive training in the effects of trauma, vicarious trauma, trauma resiliency, SPARCS, DDP, and skills required to lead trauma informed groups.
  • • Mental Health Technicians, Nursing Staff, Teachers, Recreational Therapists, and any other direct care staff also complete trainings multiple times per year addressing the effect of trauma on development and attachment. Our trainings incorporate models and strategies designed to improve the effectiveness of staff interactions with our youth and to model healthy relationships.
  • Every individual employed by Copper Hills regardless of position (e.g., housekeeping staff, dietary team, or direct line staff), receives an orientation to trauma-informed care during the new hire training.

Caring for the Caregivers

At Copper Hills Youth Center, we recognize that direct care staff may experience stress and vicarious trauma from day-to-day interactions with our youth. Therefore, we promote a model of ‘Trauma Stewardship’ that values the importance of self-awareness and self-care.

It is our goal to help our staff build resiliency and achieve success in their careers. We employ a variety of tools to help assess trauma and caregiver burnout. We offer respite and EAP services, provide staff forums such as our Shift Manager Advisory Council, create a culture of recognition and commendation, equip our staff with trauma knowledge, and empower and support them to make a difference in the lives of our residents.