One of the fundamental principles of modern psychology is that its success must be based on effective communication and a strong therapeutic relationship between the patient and therapist.
That’s particularly hard to achieve when adolescents are involved. Young people experiencing mental health problems can often react confrontationally, or not at all, to a therapist. So finding effective ways of engaging adolescents is an important goal.
Today, David Coyle at the University of Bristol and Gavin Doherty at Trinity College Dublin outline the work they’ve done on a computer game called gNats Island which is specifically designed to facilitate communication between therapists and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 15.
The game involves exploring a tropical island where visitors meet a team of wildlife explorers. These characters introduce various concepts associated with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). “For example negative automatic thoughts, a key concept in CBT, are presented as little creatures called gNats that can sting people, causing negative thinking,” say Coyle and Doherty.