Game-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (GB-CBT) is an innovative treatment approach that integrates evidence-based components of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with structured play techniques for childhood difficulties (Springer & Misurell, 2015). While the benefits of traditional CBT are well established, the task of increasing engagement, particularly among children and families has been a perennial challenge for the CBT approach. GB-CBT is a model that enhances the utility of existing empirically supported treatment approaches by making therapy more fun, engaging, and accessible for children and their families. GB-CBT accomplishes this by utilizing structured therapeutic games (STG’s), which provide multiple opportunities for practicing skills, and allowing caregivers, children, and clinicians to work collaboratively during sessions toward achieving therapeutic goals.
Dr. Springer and his colleague, Dr. Misurell, developed the model to address the poor attendance rates, frequent drop-outs and patient resistance they often observed while delivering treatment for children and families impacted by child sexual abuse (Springer & Misurell, 2010; Springer & Misurell, 2012). Games included in the curriculum are all original activities, created by the developers of the model and come in various formats including card games, trivia games, races, role-plays, brainstorming tasks, timed challenges, board games, and more. To date, several empirical investigations have been conducted and suggest that GB-CBT can be helpful in reducing a variety of behavioral symptoms for children who have experienced sexual abuse (Misurell, Springer, & Tryon, 2011; Misurell et al., 2013; Springer, Misurell, & Hiller, 2012). Additionally, this research found that treatment attendance, patient satisfaction, and cultural competency rates were higher than those commonly found in urban, community-based locations (Misurell et al., 2013).
Although GB-CBT was originally developed for children and families impacted by abuse, the model has transdiagnostic applications given that a number of the GB-CBT components are critical for helping children and adults suffering from other difficulties. These components include social and emotional skills such as emotional expression, emotional regulation, anger management, relaxation training, cognitive coping and social problem-solving skills, which can be used to address a wide variety of behavioral and emotional problems.