The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth.

~Chinese Proverb~

WWDC: Widening world of digital counseling; treating depression in children and adolescents

It was bound to happen sooner or later. There is a 3D computer fantasy game that teaches good thinking habits as effectively as biological therapist units can. The game, designed for children and adolescents, is called SPARX (not to be confused with SPANX which are women’s undergarments).

SPARX stands for Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factor thoughts. 

The Study

The game provides cognitive-behavioral therapy to the gamers. That means means it helps them replace Gloomy Negative Automatic Thoughts (GNATS) with positive SPARX thoughts. It was tested on adolescents and young adults from spring 2009 to mid-summer 2010. Participants had a single diagnosis (depression) but were not at risk for self-harm or suicide, and were not receiving other treatment. 

As already indicated, SPARX was successful in relieving (in some cases alleviating) the young players’ depressive symptoms. “It is at least as good as treatment as usual [with a therapist], would be cheaper and easier to disseminate, and could be used to increase access to therapy," wrote Dr. Merry, one of the study’s authors. 

While some counselors may be miffed by this, I know one who thinks the program should be given to everyone that owns a computer, regardless of their age. She feels the world would benefit from a global increase in effective thought processing.

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