Researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand just published promising results of a study comparing a video game they designed to help treat depression in teenage kids against traditional face-to-face counseling. Called SPARX, the game guides the players through a number of challenges that help practice handling various life situations and emotions that come with them.
The study, published in the latest issue of BMJ, has shown that the game was at least as effective as counseling in helping treat depression and anxiety in a study group of kids averaging 15 years old.
More about the game from the developers:
It uses a 3D animated game environment and a custom-made soundtrack to engage young people and teach them skills to manage symptoms of depression, in a self-directed learning format. Users are able to customise their avatar and journey to seven Provinces, each with a unique set of challenges and puzzles.
The Guide explains how the skills in the game relate to the challenges a young person may face in the real world. Young people learn cognitive behavioural therapy techniques for dealing with symptoms of depression (e.g. dealing with negative thoughts, problem-solving, activity scheduling, relaxation, etc). It can be used with minimal oversight.
Study in BMJ: The effectiveness of SPARX, a computerised self help intervention for adolescents seeking help for depression: randomised controlled non-inferiority trial