Evaluation of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Drug Refractory Epilepsy: A Randomized Controlled Trial in South Africa—A Pilot Study


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Tobias Lundgren at Department of Psychology, Uppsala University, Box 1225, 751-42 Uppsala, Sweden. E-mail: Tobias.Lundgren@psyk.uu.se


Summary: Purpose: Psychological interventions in the treatment of epilepsy have been developed and evaluated for many years but the amount of research has hardly made an impact on how epilepsy is treated. The purpose of this study was to develop and evaluate a psychological treatment program consisting of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) together with some behavioral seizure control technology shown to be successful in earlier research.

Methods: The method consisted of a randomized controlled trial group design with repeated measures (n = 27). All participants had an EEG verified epilepsy diagnosis with drug refractory seizures. Participants were randomized into one of two conditions, ACT or supportive therapy (ST). Therapeutic effects were measured by examining changes in quality of life (SWLS and WHOQOL) and seizure index (frequency × duration). Both treatment conditions consisted of only nine hours of professional therapy distributed in two individual and two group sessions during a four-week period.

Results: The results showed significant effects over all of the dependent variables for the ACT group as compared to the ST group at six- and twelve-month follow-ups.

Conclusions: The results from this study suggest that a short-term psychotherapy program combined with anticonvulsant drugs may help to prevent the long-term disability that occurs from drug refractory seizures.