HABITS Mental Health App

InGame is lead developer on HABITS, an evidence-based gamified cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) app to teach positive mental health skills to New Zealand teenagers, with a particular focus on Māori and Pacifica communities.

The project is developed with researchers from the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Auckland Medical School, and funded by the Better Start National Science Challenge. The research team previously developed the clinically-proven CBT game SPARX which can be prescribed as an e-therapy. HABITS modernises and builds on many of SPARX’s lessons.

The app challenges students to practice and rehearse six clinically-proven Cognitive Behaviours Theraphy (CBT) exercises:

  • Relaxation
  • Mindfulness with a gratitude diary
  • Activity Scheduling
  • Cognitive Distortions and understanding Thoughts and Feelings
  • Structured Problem Solving
  • Interpersonal Skills, such as listening, assertiveness and self-regulation

Players discover each skill as they explore a chain of islands and rescue the guardian spirits (Kaitiaki in Māori culture). Psycho-educational content and tips are shared throughout the journey, but the user experience is focused on doing not reading – a key feedback from user research and previous projects.

As well as software development and design, InGame facilitated design-thinking and user experience workshops and participated in the research team’s user research workshops. A key challenge was to adapt often linear CBT exercises into engaging game systems, both to make them hold users’ attention better and to explain CBT concepts visually and through interactive systems, rather than relying on text descriptions of concepts.

InGame also integrated the app into the HABITS analytics platform, which will track research participants health records (including mental health) for several years.Teens have been involved in the app’s development through co-design workshops and clinical trials will be held in early 2019.