Group therapy helps MS sufferers cope with depression

Evaluation of an adjustment group for people with multiple sclerosis and low mood: a randomized controlled trial

From Multiple Sclerosis

This new study finds group therapy helps MS sufferers cope with the disease and saves the NHS money. Offering Multiple Sclerosis sufferers emotional support through group therapy sessions could improve their quality of life and save the NHS almost £500 per patient it has been discovered. Researchers are now planning a larger multi-centre study into the issue to establish whether psychological therapy should be incorporated into the MS services currently provided by the NHS. It is recognised that many people with MS have problems with depression and anxiety and there are few treatments provided in NHS clinical services to address these.


Background: Mood problems affect many people with multiple sclerosis (MS). The aim was to evaluate the effectiveness of a group treatment based on cognitive behavioural principles.

Methods: People with MS were screened on the General Health Questionnaire 12 (GHQ-12) and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HAD). Those identified with low mood were invited to take part in a randomized trial comparing the effect of attending an adjustment group with a waiting list control. Patients allocated to the adjustment group received six 2 h group treatment sessions. Outcomes were assessed 4 and 8 months after randomization, blind to group allocation.

Results: Of the 311 patients identified, 221 (71%) met the criteria for low mood and 151 (68%) agreed to take part. Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to compare the two groups, correcting for baseline mood and disability. At 4 months, group allocation alone was a significant predictor of the primary outcome measure, the GHQ-12. At 8 months, group allocation alone was no longer a significant predictor for GHQ-12 scores, but it was when baseline GHQ-12 and Guy’s Neurological Disability Scale scores were controlled for. Comparison of the area under the curve revealed significant differences between the groups for GHQ-12 (p = 0.003), HAD Anxiety (p = 0.013), HAD Depression (p = 0.004), Beck Depression Inventory (p = 0.001), MS Self-efficacy (p = 0.037) and MS Impact Scale Psychological (p = 0.012).

Conclusion: Patients receiving treatment were less distressed and had less depression and anxiety. There was some evidence of improved self-efficacy and a reduction of the impact of MS on people’s lives.

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Article details
Lincoln, N., Yuill, F., Holmes, J., Drummond, A., Constantinescu, C., Armstrong, S., & Phillips, C. (2011). Evaluation of an adjustment group for people with multiple sclerosis and low mood: a randomized controlled trial Multiple Sclerosis Journal DOI: 10.1177/1352458511408753

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