Group cognitive behavioral therapy for depressive and anxious symptoms in patients with epilepsy

A recent study published in Epilepsy & Behavior examined the effectiveness of a group cognitive behavioral therapy (GCBT) intervention for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with epilepsy. Previous research has shown that individuals with epilepsy have higher rates of anxiety and depression symptomology than the general population; and while CBT has been shown to be effective in treating these conditions, the authors cite that such interventions are often not available to those with epilepsy.

The study sought to examine: 1) the effectiveness of GCBT for reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and negative automatic thoughts in patients with epilepsy, 2) whether a 10-session GCBT program can increase knowledge of CBT concepts and skills in patients with epilepsy, 3) the acceptability of GCBT to patients with epilepsy, as measured by recruitment attrition rate, number of overall sessions attended, and patient satisfaction with treatment.

Clinical psychologists and social workers were responsible for screening participants for inclusion via telephone, conducting the group sessions, and follow-up sessions with each participant. To measure symptoms and CBT knowledge the pre and post groups screening measures included: the Beck Depression Inventory II, the Beck Anxiety Inventory, the Automatic Thoughts Questionnaire, and the Cognitive Therapy Awareness Scale.

Results showed a significant improvement in patients’ mood, an increase in learned CBT skills and a high level of satisfaction with treatment. These findings indicate GCBT as a promising treatment for those with epilepsy, who suffer from symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. Some limitations were the small sample size, the lack of a control group, and the lack of data about  patients’ seizure disorders. The authors’ future research goals include assessing patients’ diagnoses, and obtaining follow up information to see the long-term effects of treatment.

Macrodimitris, S., Wershler, J., Hatfield, M., Hamilton, K., Backs-Dermott, B., Mothersill, K., Baxter, C., & Wiebe, S. (2011). Group cognitive-behavioral therapy for patients with epilepsy and comorbid depression and anxiety. Epilepsy and Behavior, 20, 1, 83-88.

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