Psychological treatments for people with epilepsy

Rosa Michaelis, Venus Tang, Sarah Nevitt, Janelle L. Wagner, Avani C. Modi, William Curt LaFrance Jr, Laura H. Goldstein, Milena Gandy, Rebecca Bresnahan , Kette Valente, Kirsten A. Donald, Markus Reuber

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)
    122 Downloads (Pure)


    Background: Given the significant impact epilepsy may have on the health-related quality of life (HRQOL) of individuals with epilepsy and their families, there is increasing clinical interest in evidence-based psychological treatments, aimed at enhancing psychological and seizure-related outcomes for this group. This is an updated version of the original Cochrane Review published in Issue 10, 2017. Objectives: To assess the impact of psychological treatments for people with epilepsy on HRQOL outcomes. Search methods: For this update, we searched the following databases on 12 August 2019, without language restrictions: Cochrane Register of Studies (CRS Web), which includes randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trials from the Specialized Registers of Cochrane Review Groups including Epilepsy, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE (Ovid, 1946 to 09 August 2019), and PsycINFO (EBSCOhost, 1887 onwards), and from PubMed, Embase,, and the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP). We screened the references from included studies and relevant reviews, and contacted researchers in the field for unpublished studies. Selection criteria: We considered randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs for this review. HRQOL was the main outcome. For the operational definition of 'psychological treatments', we included a broad range of skills-based psychological treatments and education-only interventions designed to improve HRQOL, seizure frequency and severity, as well as psychiatric and behavioral health comorbidities for adults and children with epilepsy. These psychological treatments were compared to treatment as usual (TAU), an active control group (such as social support group), or antidepressant pharmacotherapy. Data collection and analysis: We used standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane. Main results: We included 36 completed RCTs, with a total of 3526 participants. Of these studies, 27 investigated skills-based psychological interventions. The remaining nine studies were education-only interventions. Six studies investigated interventions for children and adolescents, three studies investigated interventions for adolescents and adults, and the remaining studies investigated interventions for adults. Based on satisfactory clinical and methodological homogeneity, we pooled data from 11 studies (643 participants) that used the Quality of Life in Epilepsy-31 (QOLIE-31) or other QOLIE inventories (such as QOLIE-89 or QOLIE-31-P) convertible to QOLIE-31. We found significant mean changes for the QOLIE-31 total score and six subscales (emotional well-being, energy and fatigue, overall QoL, seizure worry, medication effects, and cognitive functioning). The mean changes in the QOLIE-31 total score (mean improvement of 5.23 points, 95% CI 3.02 to 7.44; P < 0.001), and the overall QoL score (mean improvement of 5.95 points, 95% CI 3.05 to 8.85; P < 0.001) exceeded the threshold of minimally important change (MIC: total score: 4.73 points; QoL score: 5.22 points), indicating a clinically meaningful postintervention improvement in HRQOL. We downgraded the certainty of the evidence provided by the meta-analysis due to serious risks of bias in some of the included studies. Consequently, these results provided moderate-certainty evidence that psychological treatments for adults with epilepsy may enhance overall HRQOL. Authors' conclusions: Implications for practice: Skills-based psychological interventions improve HRQOL in adults and adolescents with epilepsy. Adjunctive use of skills-based psychological treatments for adults and adolescents with epilepsy may provide additional benefits in HRQOL when these are incorporated into patient-centered management. We judge the evidence to be of moderate certainty. Implications for research: Investigators should strictly adhere to the CONSORT guidelines to improve the quality of reporting on their interventions. A thorough description of intervention protocols is necessary to ensure reproducibility. When examining the effectiveness of psychological treatments for people with epilepsy, the use of standardized HRQOL inventories, such as the Quality of Life in Epilepsy Inventories (QOLIE-31, QOLIE-31-P, and QOLIE-89) would increase comparability. Unfortunately, there is a critical gap in pediatric RCTs and RCTs including people with epilepsy and intellectual disabilities. Finally, in order to increase the overall quality of RCT study designs, adequate randomization with allocation concealment and blinded outcome assessment should be pursued. As attrition is often high in research that requires active participation, an intention-to-treat analysis should be carried out. Treatment fidelity and treatment competence should also be assessed. These important dimensions, which are related to 'Risk of bias' assessment, should always be reported.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberCD012081
    Pages (from-to)1-116
    Number of pages116
    JournalThe Cochrane database of systematic reviews
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2020

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright The Cochrane Collaboration 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

    Acknowledgement: "This Cochrane Review was published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2020, Issue 8. Cochrane Reviews are regularly updated as new evidence emerges and in response to feedback, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews should be consulted for the most recent version of the Cochrane Review."

    Citation: Michaelis R, Tang V, Nevitt SJ, Wagner JL, Modi AC, LaFrance Jr WCurt, Goldstein LH, Gandy M, Bresnahan R, Valente K, Donald KA, Reuber M. Psychological treatments for people with epilepsy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2020, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD012081. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012081.pub3.

    For permission to re-publish in forms not covered by the rights granted above, see


    Dive into the research topics of 'Psychological treatments for people with epilepsy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this