Evaluation of therapeutic computer games

Background

International studies show that approximately 2% of all children suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Without treatment, pediatric OCD often takes a turn for the worse. The longer the patient has been suffering from the disorder prior to diagnosis, and the earlier OCD manifests itself, the worse the prognosis will be.

Both cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) as well as the use of medication have proven to be the most effective form of treatment for pediatric OCD. Unfortunately, there is a lack of psychotherapists available to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder. One of the reasons for this is a lack of materials for working with children. In order to enhance dissemination of the CBT-treatment approach for young children affected with OCD, the video game Ricky and the Spider was developed as a therapeutic tool to support therapists in their treatment of young children with the disorder and to encourage children to fight their OCD with evidence-based strategies.

Ricky and the Spider

Ricky and the Spider integrates the core elements of cognitive behavior therapy into a therapeutic video game, thus offering supplementary support for both the child and the therapist during treatment. It helps to facilitate the understanding of the illness, its consequences and its subsequent treatment by illustrating this metaphorically. Ricky and the Spider aims to encourage children to confront their obsessive-compulsive disorder and offers support to therapists in their treatment of children with OCD. However, Ricky and the Spider is not a self-help game and not a miracle cure. The game should be played only within the frame of a CBT therapy session.

Evaluation

All users of Ricky and the Spider are requested to cooperate for the evaluation of the game. This means completing two questionnaires at the end of treatment, one for the therapist and one for the child. Besides data on age, sex, IQ, OCD severity and eventual comorbities of the child, the following questions are investigated:

  • Do therapists experience the game as helpful in explaining the CBT treatment approach?
  • Does the game enhance treatment motivation of the child?
  • Do children appreciate the game?
  • Do children and therapists rate OCD as less severe after treatment?
  • Is Ricky and the Spider also used outside university centres?
  • Do only behavior therapists work with the game, or is it used by therapists with a different orientation as well?

If you did not receive a questionnaire yet, please contact veronika.christiaanse-brezinka@uzh.ch.