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Game Therapy

Two new computer games developed by the Media Lab Europe and Trinity College Dublin may help adolescents recover from depression. Both games are based on solution-focused therapy, in which patients think about their problems and then come up with answers under the guidance of therapists.

Personal Investigator turns young patients into detectives who search for solutions to personal problems by visiting five rooms in a castle. In each room, they answer questions and record their responses in a digital detective’s notebook. After working through the questions in one room, detectives are given a key to the next room. The ideais that by answering the questions, teens will clarify their goals and discover hidden strengths and resources that will help them overcome their depression.

Working Things Out presents the stories of 10 adolescents who have coped with mental-health difficulties and shows how they overcame their problems. Patients view the game with their therapists and then use it to tell their own multimedia stories. The hope is that after hearing other teens’ stories, patients will more readily open up and tell their own, says John Sharry, a research scientist at the Media Lab Europe who is working on the project.

“Video games get a lot of bad press,” says Sharry, who is also a psychotherapist in the Department of Child and Family Psychiatry at Dublin’s Mater Hospital. “We’re joining with young people to find ways to use them constructively.”

Both games are now being tested with patients at Mater Hospital.

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