Objective: To design a cognitive behavioral videogame intervention and to evaluate its preliminary effect on improving youth’s perceptions about themselves, their future, and their ability by incorporating skill development in cognitive reappraisal, an emotion regulation strategy to change perceptions.
Materials and Methods: We conducted a pilot RCT to evaluate the preliminary efficacy of a videogame intervention, empowerED, in enhancing cognitive reappraisal skills. We also assessed beliefs/attitudes, self-efficacy, and emotional self-efficacy as well as user experience and feasibility. Youth (N = 100) aged 14–19 years from one school were enrolled in a pilot RCT assigned either to play empowerED or a control condition.
Results: Improvements were noted in cognitive reappraisal in the empowerED group compared to the control group (LSM difference = 1.33, P = 0.01). There were no significant differences observed between treatment groups for beliefs/attitudes, self-efficacy, and emotional self-efficacy; however, the empowerED group reported improvements in beliefs/attitudes from pretest to posttest survey responses (M = 1.33, P = 0.01).
Conclusion: Overall, the intervention was deemed easy to use and beneficial among youth, and feasibly delivered in a high school setting. Given the growing youth mental health needs in schools and the importance of school climate on healthy development, empowerED may offer an effective and innovative student-level approach to improve cognitive reappraisal and later empower youth to enact change in their school climate. Clinical Trials.gov Identifier: NCT04025294.