For health professionals

What is SPARX and how does it work?

Who is SPARX for?

SPARX is a self-help tool designed specifically for young people (12-19 years) with mild to moderate depression.

SPARX is not a clinical service. Clinical teams engaging with young people retain the duty of care.

How does SPARX work?

SPARX uses proven therapeutic skills in a game like way. Instead of a young person learning about new ways of doing things from reading a book, or talking with someone, SPARX uses multiple learning strategies, including fun and active ways of learning that young people can practice in a safe setting. The main kind of therapy is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT is one of the main recommended treatments for people with depression. Research has shown that CBT helps with depression and anxiety.

Has SPARX been studied?

We tested SPARX in a large study in New Zealand and the results were published in the British Medical Journal in 2012. In addition, three doctoral projects evaluated SPARX with Māori, LGBTQIA+, and young people in Alternative Education.

These studies showed that SPARX:

  • was as effective as standard care for youths 12 to 19 years old seeking help for depression
  • reduced depression, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness and improved quality of life
  • worked better for those with more depression (but still within mild-moderate range)
  • worked equally well across different ethnic groups in New Zealand
  • worked equally well for girls and boys and older and younger youths
  • worked equally well across the age group of 12 to 19 years
  • appeared to work better when users completed at least half of the modules (i.e. at least four levels)

We also found that these changes lasted for at least three months. Most young people completed at least half of SPARX and this compared very well with other similar programs. Also, most participants found SPARX useful, believed it would appeal to other teenagers and would recommend it to their friends.

For more information about our research, please email us.

 
 

What other resources are available?

SPARX training for Health Professionals

  • Promotional Tools
  • Business Cards and A5 Flyers- promotional: These can be used as general handouts to all.
  • Business Cards and A5 Flyers- Help: helpline listed so ideally suited for those you are specifically recommending to use SPARX.
  • A4 posters.
  • To view examples of these resources click here.

We also have a PowerPoint presentation which can be shown in a classroom or other group setting along with other services youth can access as well.

To request any of the above free resources email: sparx@auckland.ac.nz or contact us through the Contact Form under the ‘Contact’ tab on this website.