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BYU clinical psychologist designs card game to help youth combat mental health symptoms

By Genelle Pugmire - | Sep 27, 2021

BYU clinical psychologist Jon Cox developed a new card game for youth to help them develop an awareness of their thoughts and emotions while teaching them skills to combat common mental health symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo

It may not be a cosmic game of Jumanji or allow you to be a guardian of the galaxy, but a new card game developed at Brigham Young University could help children with mental health while preparing for cosmic battle.

Conversations on the mental health of children and teens has grown increasingly common over that past several years. Data from the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that one in six U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year, and nearly half of all mental illness begins by age 14, according to BYU sources.

Jon Cox, a clinical psychologist at BYU is hoping to reverse these very concerning trends.

Cox has developed a new card game for youth to help them develop an awareness of their thoughts and emotions while teaching skills to combat common mental health symptoms associated with depression and anxiety, according to a BYU press release.

The game, Cosmic Battle Training, is designed to be fun and easy to play.

BYU animation student Ivy Rich created custom designs for each playing card. Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo

“The idea is that this game can help youth learn concepts to help them deal with their emotions and their thoughts better,” said Cox, who works in BYU’s Counseling and Psychological Services. “Ultimately, the game is meant to help improve coping skills and self-resilience in children and teens.”

The card game simulates an intergalactic space battle. Players pick and execute both offensive and defensive strategies in order to defeat their opponent and win the game. At the bottom of each card is a therapeutic principle that the card represents, which players can read and integrate into their play. The principles are drawn from cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, a popular and effective form of psychological treatment, according to the press release.

Examples of statements on the cards include actions such as:

  • Think about what you would tell a friend if they were in the same situation.
  • Calculate the chances or probability of something bad actually happening.
  • Use soothing things from all five senses to help you feel better.
  • Remove yourself from a difficult situation before you do something you will regret until you calm down enough to cope with it.

According to Cox, the game should be used in conjunction with therapy, not as a replacement for it.

“Then when they’re talking with a therapist, they can be more familiar with the concepts and when to apply them; they understand the emotions they’re feeling and know which skills can be used for which problems,” Cox said.

The idea for the game came to Cox a decade ago when he noticed that other therapy support games on the market simply weren’t appealing to children. For years, he methodically crafted Cosmic Battle Training to be enjoyable for children, writing and revising playing rules that allow the game to be both simple and entertaining,” the BYU statement said.

The visuals of the game are just as important as the game itself. Cox wanted to make sure it had a visual appeal to catch kid’s attention.

Cox hired BYU animation student Ivy Rich to create custom designs for each playing card. Rich brought Cox’s vision to life with colorfully stunning illustrations of spaceships, laser beams,and characters, the press release said.

“After talking with Jon and getting a sense for the game, I was really excited to work on this. We started with some initial concepts and would go back and forth until we had the basic model and design concepts understood,” Rich said. “Then I started creating different illustrations. Each card has a unique and custom design.”

Rich ended up creating over 60 different high-resolution illustrations for the game.

Rich, a senior from Petersboro, in Cache County, says the chance to work on a project of this magnitude added to her BYU experience and has given her a leg up in the competitive freelance design market.

“It feels awesome to see my work out there. To have people view and enjoy your work is really the dream of every artist,” she said. “This project helped prepare me for future client work; it helped me develop as an artist and become more skilled in the software I was using. Having this opportunity was huge for me.”

Cosmic Battle Training sells for $29.99 and is available on Amazon.com.

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