E-therapy for youth depression


SPARX is a unique, award-winning self help initiative that helps young people learn skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed.  The effectiveness of SPARX has been proven to be as good as standard care in a randomised control trial undertaken by the University of Auckland. It has been developed in New Zealand by an expert team of mental health professionals with the specific purpose of providing an e-therapy intervention for New Zealand youth experiencing mild to moderate depression.

This training is aimed at health professionals and counsellors supporting young people experiencing mental and emotional health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Depression is a serious problem affecting more than 50,000 young New Zealanders each year. There are effective psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, but more than three quarters of adolescents with depression never receive formal treatment. The availability of professional help, not knowing how and where to get help as well as fear of stigma are the most common barriers. Our goal was to make evidence-based therapy more accessible to adolescents. 

All young New Zealanders can access SPARX online. It is pitched in a format that is familiar to adolescents and can be used entirely as a self-help resource. It gives young people with depression access to an evidence-based intervention where they otherwise would  not be able or willing to seek professional help. SPARX enables adolescents to exercise individual agency in addressing their mental health needs and presents an alternative to many youth who are experiencing depression.

Learning objectives

This training is designed to give you an overview of:

  • E-therapies, guidelines for their use and where SPARX fits clinically.
  • Who can benefit from SPARX and who may need more help.
  • Depression in adolescence: prevalence rates, barriers to care, brief screening and monitoring of outcome.
  • Evidence behind SPARX.


Following the course you will find a short quiz designed to help consolidate your learning. When you complete the quiz please hit the 'submit' button to receive your certificate. This course provides 1 MOPs points or 1 hour of CPD.


SPARX was created by Associate Professor Sally Merry, Dr Karolina Stasiak, Dr Theresa (Terry) Fleming, Dr Matthew Shepherd and Dr Mathijs Lucassen. They teamed up with expert game and web developers, learning technology and content specialists, young people, Māori advisors, Pacific advisors and Asian advisors to create an appealing program. The results of the main SPARX trial were published in the British Medical Journal in 2012 and SPARX has also been given international awards by the United Nations and UNESCO.  This content was updated in July 2018.

The material is presented by the Goodfellow Unit (GFU),  an accredited continuing medical education/ continuing professional development (CME/CPD) provider for the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and functions under a tripartite agreement between the Goodfellow Foundation, the College and the University of Auckland. The Unit is located within the Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, and within the School of Population Health, one of the five Schools within the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.


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