SPARX: A New and Effective Computerized, CBT Self-Help Intervention for Depression

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy StudyAccording to a recent randomized control trial published in the British Medical Journal, a new computerized cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) intervention, SPARX (Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factor thoughts), may reduce depressive symptoms in adolescents seeking treatment as much or more than treatment as usual. SPARX, which is similar in presentation to interactive fantasy avatar computer games, provides CBT interventions (e.g., psychoeducation, activity scheduling, behavioral activation, relaxation training, cognitive restructuring, and homework, etc.)  and sets and monitors real-life challenges. (See video demonstration below.)

In the current study, 187 adolescents (ages 12 to 19) with depressive symptoms participated in either the SPARX intervention or face-to-face-treatment as usual, and were followed up for three months. Results showed that symptom reduction among participants in the SPARX group was as great as the usual care group. Furthermore, recovery rates for the SPARX group were higher than usual care when participants completed at least four homework modules. These findings suggest that SPARX is, potentially, a less expensive and more accessible treatment alternative for depressed adolescents in primary care settings where the demand for treatment is often unmet.

Merry, S. N., Stasiak, K., Shepherd, M., Frampton, C., Fleming, T., & Lucassen, M. F. (2012). The effectiveness of SPARX, a computerised self help intervention for adolescents seeking help for depression: randomised controlled non-inferiority trial. British Medical Journal, doi: 10.1136/bmj.e2598.