For blue teens, a
computer game may provide an alternative to in-person counseling, research workers
In a multicenter trial in
New Zealand, playing the cognitive behavioral video game SPARX at home was
Noninferior to clinical counselling that is usual with regards to progress in
Scores, Sally Merry, MD, of colleagues, and the University of Auckland reported
online in BMJ.
“The results are more
Striking if it is considered that SPARX was totally a self-help
resource,” they wrote. “The only contact using a clinician was at
Recruiting, and the sole input from health professionals throughout the lessons of
treatment proved to be a brief phone call after having a month.”
Less than a fifth of youthful
Individuals with depressive disorder are treated, the researchers said, partly
because young people
May be unwilling to find help that is traditional.
Being able to have therapy
on the computer, however, may offer a potential way to appeal to today’s
“digital natives,” they wrote.
So to assess whether
SPARX (Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factor ideas) could reduce
depressive symptoms in adolescents who sought help compared with regular
A randomized controlled trial was conducted by treatment, the researchers at 24
primary healthcare sites in New Zealand, which included school-based counselling
General, youth clinics, and services practices.
A total of 187 teens
Ages 12 to 19 who sought help but had no significant threat of self harm
were registered, and 168 completed 3 months of follow up.
The game is established as an
interactive fantasy in which the user picks an avatar which is charged with restoring
Equilibrium in a word dominated by “gloomy negative automatic thoughts.”
Cognitive behavioral therapy is given during those challenges via a guide
Who provides education, places the game into context, estimates disposition, and sets and
Screens real life challenges.
The player usually spends
20 to 40 minutes on each of seven modules, delivered over 4 to 7 weeks.
Standard care was in-person
Counselling delivered by trained counselors and clinical psychologists.
Merry and, overall
Co-workers found that SPARX was noninferior to treatment as usual.
Colleagues and Merry found
that effectiveness of SPARX wasn’t related to gender, age, ethnicity, or placing,
But players who were depressed at baseline
Greater decrease with SPARX in depression scores than
They included that there were
no differences in adverse events that were potentially related to the intervention.
Even though the study was
Restricted because data on standard care weren’t as solid as had been hoped, the
researchers still concluded that SPARX “was at least as great as treatment
As usual in main healthcare sites in New Zealand would be cheaper and
easier to disseminate.”