Coping Coach: A Web-based Game to Help Children Recover

May 13, 2013

A screen shot from Coping Coach

Millions of children experience injuries or sudden illnesses each year, leaving families to face challenging emotional reactions in addition to physical recovery. Unfortunately, there are very few resources available to support children through this recovery. To address this need, our team collaborated with colleagues at the University of Queensland in Australia to develop a web-based game called Coping Coach – a fun, interactive way to help a large number of children with their emotional recovery.

Coping Coach, intended for children 8 to 12 years old, is based in evidence and theory about how to help prevent negative emotional reactions in children following frightening events. It was developed from the same foundational research as CHOP's AfterTheInjury.org website, which provides support and information for parents. Currently, Coping Coach has three levels:

  • Level 1: Tree house (topic: feelings identification)
  • Level 2: Airship (topic: helpful and unhelpful appraisals/thoughts)
  • Level 3: Cloud (topic: approach versus avoidance)

We presented our pilot data on the development of Coping Coach at The National Conference on Pediatric Psychology in New Orleans a few weeks ago and will be sharing more results at the upcoming International Society for Research on Internet Interventions (Chicago) and European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (Bologna, Italy). To date, our pilot data shows that Coping Coach is easy to use, engaging, and educational for children, who can use the game somewhat independently with the support of their parents. For example, one child in the pilot study stated, “I learned that everybody has accidents, and you can get help by telling someone.”  Another said, “I liked how I got to express my feelings.” As a direct result of the pilot data, we have now added an audio component in the form of voices for all of the game’s text as well as a music soundtrack.

With these promising findings, we are moving forward with a randomized controlled trial (RCT), funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. This RCT allows us to evaluate outcomes of the Coping Coach intervention. Stay tuned for results…