CBT-based group therapy intervention for nonepileptic attacks and other functional neurological symptoms: a pilot study

Martin Conwill, Louise Oakley, Kerry Evans, Andrea E. Cavanna*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the high prevalence and disabling nature of nonepileptic attacks (NEAs) and other types of functional neurological symptoms (FNSs), treatment trials are few. Preliminary evidence supports the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approaches, and CBT-based group therapies have the potential to improve cost-effectiveness and deliverability of treatment. This pilot study was undertaken to evaluate whether CBT-based group therapy would offer a feasible treatment option for patients with NEAs and other FNSs. We evaluated the outcomes of an information and management intervention within a neuropsychiatry service, which included weekly CBT-based group therapy sessions for patients with NEAs and other FNSs. Outcomes pertaining to quality of life and physical and emotional well-being were measured using the 36-item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36), the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), and the Clinical Global Impression (CGI) scale. Data were collected from 16 patients, of whom 10 presented with NEAs. Significant improvements were selectively reported in the 'emotional well-being' (p. =. 0.04) and 'role limitation due to emotional well-being' (p. =. 0.04) subscores of the SF-36. Improvements in overall quality-of-life scores (p. =. 0.22), as well as in HADS anxiety (p. =. 0.34) and depression (p. =. 0.46) scores, did not reach statistical significance. These trends were supported by a positive mean CGI improvement scale score of 2.4, indicating minimal-to-considerable improvement. Group therapy intervention with a CBT-based approach is a feasible treatment option in the management of NEAs and other FNSs, as shown by significant improvements in emotional domains of quality of life in this low power pilot study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-72
Number of pages5
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
Early online date6 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - May 2014


  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • functional neurological symptoms
  • group therapy
  • nonepileptic attacks
  • psychogenic nonepileptic seizures
  • quality of life


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