A Video Game Designed to Treat Depression Worked Better Than Counseling

SPARX uses the form of a videogame to help depressive teenagers treat themselves.

medGadget
medGadget

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. [Editor's note: In fact, it worked better, reducing symptoms of depression more than treatment as usual.]

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.


This post also appears on medGadget, an Atlantic partner site.

Presented by

medGadget is written by a group of MDs and biomedical engineers.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

Video

Is Minneapolis the Best City in America?

No other place mixes affordability, opportunity, and wealth so well.

More in Health

Just In