BACKGROUND: Serious games are computer or video games that contain elements that are specifically designed for the purpose of education or training. Serious games are increasingly being used within healthcare, but their introduction into and application in psychotherapeutic settings as an e-mental health treatment modality raises questions for both patients and therapists. Current research demonstrates the potential role and effectiveness of serious games within a psychotherapeutic context. However, a limited understanding of patients’ and therapists’ existing knowledge and experience of serious games, as well as of their readiness to utilize and apply them for the treatment of psychological conditions, requires further investigation.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Acceptance, experience, and requirements for the utilization of serious games in therapeutic contexts were assessed through online surveys with German-speaking patients (n = 260) and psychotherapists (n = 234). Respondents’ answers were analyzed by a combination of descriptive and inferential statistics by using SPSS.
RESULTS: Current knowledge regarding serious games was very limited, with only 10.4% of patients and 11.5% of therapists reporting existing knowledge. However, a general openness toward the concept was observed: 88% of patients and 90% of therapists could envisage a therapeutic use. Patients (rs = 0.169, p = 0.006) who self-rated their level of computer and video game expertise as high were more likely to consider use within psychotherapy, compared with patients who self-rated their expertise as low. Therapists who currently play computer and video games perceive fewer disadvantages of serious game application in a psychotherapeutic context (p = 0.097). Consideration of serious game use was differentiated by the therapeutic approach (p = 0.003), specific mental disorders (highest rated relevant cases: anxiety disorders, affective disorders, disorders regarding impulse control, and adjustment disorders), and patient age (i.e., use with young adults was deemed the most appropriate by 91.8% of therapists).
CONCLUSION: The application of serious games is conceivable for patients and therapists, especially as a complementary element to traditional face-to-face psychotherapy. Acceptance is strongly related to therapeutic context. Only a small number of therapists and patients agree on the possibility of using a serious game instead of face-to-face therapy.
Eichenberg, C., Grabmayer, G. & Green, N. (2016). Acceptance of Serious Games in Psychotherapy: An Inquiry into the Stance of Therapists and Patients. Telemedicine and e-Health, April 5th. doi:10.1089/tmj.2016.0001