A New Zealand based online program for young people with depression, anxiety and stress.
What is SPARX?
SPARX is a computer program that helps young people with mild to moderate depression, anxiety or stress. It is based on a type of ‘talking therapy’ called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
- At the start of SPARX you meet the Guide, who explains what SPARX is and how it could help you.
- You then customise your avatar and journey to the seven provinces to complete quests that restore the world's balance and defeat the pesky negative thoughts, called Gnats.
- Along the way, you will meet different characters, solve puzzles and complete mini games.
- As you complete each quest, the Guide will explain how you can use your new skills to feel better, solve problems and enjoy life in the real world. Each level takes about half an hour.
For the complete app description, go to the app website and for a detailed review, see Reviews.
✔ Offers CBT skills including breathing and relaxation, activity scheduling, problem solving, cognitive skills, and social skills.
✔ Offers a range of good cognitive skills.
✔ Engaging/fun interface with games alongside educational content.
✔ Great support offered through online chat and associated help line.
✔ Can use on phone or on computer.
✔ All instructions and educational aspects are vocalised meaning instructions don’t need to be read.
✔ Culturally appropriate for NZ audience.
✘ Some skills such as activity planning and structured problem solving taught only superficially with little interactive facility to practice skills and homework tasks only loosely defined.
✘ No interaction with programme between “sessions”.
✘ Hard to access homework notebook unless you have entered the game aspect of the programme which can be time consuming.
✘ Teaches the skills of thought blocking which is not considered to be effective.
✘ Large files take time to download on both phone ap and pc version. Frustrating if you come in and out of playing.
✘ Can’t dip into different topics – have to work through entire programme to get to cognitive skills in last three lessons.
Privacy and security
Users have to provide their email and phone number so SPARX can contact you. Read more about things you can do to improve your safety and security when using apps.
Date of review: August 2018
Platform reviewed: Android
SPARX information for parents
SPARX information for Whanau, Maori
SPARX parent and family handbook
The effectiveness of SPARX, a computerised self help intervention for adolescents seeking help for depression: randomised controlled non-inferiority trial BMJ, 2012
Reviewer: Kris Garstang, Clinical Psychologist, Life Mind Psychology
Date of review: August 2018
Comments: "SPARX is an online CBT/e-therapy programme for treatment of depression for young people. Uses can learn skills for mood management including activity scheduling, problem solving, cognitive skills, breathing and relaxation and social skills. It offers CBT skills including breathing and relaxation, activity scheduling, problem solving, cognitive skills, and social skills. It also offers a range of good cognitive skills. It has an engaging/fun interface with games alongside educational content and also provides great support through online chat and associated help line."
NZ relevance: Highly relevant and tailored to NZ audience.
Safety concerns: "None - it has really good contact and options offered regarding safety which is monitored using PHQ9. If suicidal thoughts are noted by user, SPARX emails and texts emergency contacts."