Preventing childhood anxiety disorders: Is an applied game as effective as a cognitive behavioral therapy-based program?
Number of pages
SourcePrevention Science, 19, 2, (2018), pp. 220-232
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI OGG
A large proportion of children experience subclinical levels of anxiety and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) aimed at preventing anxiety disorders is moderately effective. However, most at-risk children do not seek help or drop out of programs prematurely because of stigma, lack of motivation, and accessibility barriers. Applied games have received increased attention as viable alternatives and have shown promising results, but direct comparisons between applied games and the gold-standard CBT are lacking. Our aim was to investigate whether the applied game MindLight is as effective as CBT (i.e., Coping Cat) within an indicated prevention context. We conducted a randomized controlled non-inferiority trial with a sample of 174 children (7- to 12-year olds) with elevated levels of anxiety, comparing MindLight to CBT. Anxiety was assessed with self- and parent-reports at pre- and post-program, and at 3- and 6-month follow-ups. Intention-to-treat and completers-only confidence interval approach and latent growth curve modeling showed an overall significant quadratic decrease in child- and parent-reported anxiety symptoms over time and, as predicted, the magnitude of improvement was the same for MindLight and CBT. The within-group effect sizes were small to medium at post-test (- 0.32 to - 0.63), and medium to large (- 0.60 to - 1.07) at 3- and 6-month follow-ups. Furthermore, MindLight and CBT were rated equally anxiety inducing, difficult, and appealing; CBT was rated as more relevant to daily life than MindLight. The current study adds to the growing research on applied games for mental health and shows that these games hold potential as alternative delivery models for evidence-based therapeutic techniques.
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