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SPARX computerised CBT is as effective as usual care for mild-to-moderate depression in help seeking adolescents

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Question: Is a computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) intervention (SPARX: smart, positive, active, realistic, X-factor thoughts) as effective as usual care at reducing depressive symptoms in help-seeking adolescents?

Patients: 187 adolescents aged 12–19 years seeking help for symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression, and deemed in need of treatment by their primary healthcare clinician. Participants were eligible if they had access to a computer, provided written consent and had undertaken a minimum of 1 year of English schooling. Exclusion criteria: severe depression, risk of self-harm, significant morbid or suicidal ideation, intellectual disability or physical limitations, other major mental health disorders, previous (in past 3 months) or current CBT, interpersonal therapy or antidepressants.

Setting: Twenty-four primary healthcare sites (general practices, youth clinics and school-based counselling services), seven provincial and urban locations in New Zealand; May 2009 to December 2010.

Intervention: Computerised CBT (SPARX) versus usual care. SPARX is an interactive fantasy game designed to deliver CBT for clinically significant depression, and consisting of seven modules delivered over a 4–7 week period. …

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  • Sources of funding: The New Zealand Ministry of Health.