AcceptME: Evaluation of a digital gamified prevention program based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

  • M. Karekla
  • P. Nicolao


Background: Eating Disorders (ED) constitute a serious public health issue that affects predominantly women and appears typically in adolescence or early adulthood. EDs are associated with significant adverse medical and psychological consequences, and developing successful prevention programs is vital. Prevention programs to date have not shown great effectiveness and thus new approaches (both theoretically and technologically innovative) are needed so as to reach individuals early in the ED trajectory. This paper presents the development of a gamified prevention program (AcceptME ) based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Method: The study used an experimental design and investigated acceptability and effectiveness compared to a wait-list control group among high-risk for EDs young women (N= 88; Mage = 15 years). The prevention group (N= 58) completed 6 internet-based sessions targeting behavior change via helping (using ACT taught principles) a digital character in the game to overcome difficulties. Results: Findings showed that the AcceptME program was perceived as helpful for dealing with body related thoughts and worries and participants particularly liked and found helpful the values and acceptance components of the program. The game storyline was reported to be engaging and aid in learning from the game experience. Repeated measures analyses of variance indicated that the AcceptME prevention program effectively reduced weight and shape concerns, with large resulting effect sizes (Cohen’s d=.91) compared to wait-list controls. Conclusions: The results suggest that the gamified AcceptME prevention program holds promise for the prevention of EDs among young women and is ready for large scale implementation.