Acceptance of Serious Games in Psychotherapy: An Inquiry into the Stance of Therapists and Patients

Eichenberg, Grabmayer & Green (2016)


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