A feasibility study of a brief psycho-educational intervention for psychogenic nonepileptic seizures

Seizure. 2013 Nov;22(9):760-5. doi: 10.1016/j.seizure.2013.06.008. Epub 2013 Aug 2.


Purpose: We have previously reported that one in six patients stops experiencing psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) following our communication protocol. This prospective multicentre study describes a psycho-educational intervention for PNES building on the initial communication of the diagnosis and examines the feasibility of its delivery by healthcare professionals with minimal experience in psychological therapies.

Method: Three healthcare professionals with minimal training in psychological therapies took part in a one-day training course. 20 participants attended for a four-session manualised psycho-educational intervention delivered at three different clinical neuroscience centres. Participants completed self-report measures prior to the intervention at baseline (n=29) and seven months after diagnosis (n=13) measures included seizure frequency, health related quality of life, healthcare utilisation, activity levels, symptom attributions and levels of functioning. Therapy sessions were audiorecorded and manual adherence assessed.

Results: Of 29 patients enrolled into the study, 20 started and 13 completed the intervention and provided follow-up information. At follow-up, 4/13 of patients had achieved complete seizure control and a further 3/13 reported a greater than 50% improvement in seizure frequency. After training, epilepsy nurses and assistant psychologists demonstrated sufficient adherence to the manualised psycho-educational intervention in 80% of sessions.

Conclusion: The delivery of our brief manualised psycho-educational intervention for PNES by health professionals with minimal training in psychological treatment was feasible. The intervention was associated with higher rates of PNES cessation than those observed in our previous studies describing the short-term outcome of the communication of the diagnosis alone. An RCT of the intervention is justified but a significant proportion of drop-outs will have to be anticipated.

Keywords: Dissociative seizures; Intervention; Non-epileptic attack disorder; Psychotherapy; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Epilepsy / complications
  • Epilepsy / psychology*
  • Epilepsy / rehabilitation*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance / psychology
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / complications
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / psychology*
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Report
  • Social Adjustment