I must receive an average of 10 emails a week from across the US from persons diagnosed with psychogenic seizures (PNES), family members, nurses, and sometimes therapists. I try very hard to respond to every one as fully as I can, including links and other resources and as quickly as I can because I feel the sense of urgency in them.
Some topics keep popping up in these emails. The most common one is that the person who is writing has been given a diagnosis of PNES at an epilepsy center and has been sent on their “merry way” advised to find a mental health professional (believe me, I have a future blog post planned on this topic). When the patient or family member tries to find a psychotherapist who will treat this condition, they often encounter one of two things: 1) “I have never heard of this diagnosis” (and can’t treat you) and 2) if the patient is accepted into the practice “There must be a mistake because the seizure you just had in my office cannot possibly be psychological in nature.”
I recently published a webinar that is now on YouTube to address this problem. It is meant to be a primer for psychologists and psychotherapists. Patients can also choose to share with their therapists if need be. I hope it will provide therapists with the necessary information to gain confidence in working with persons with PNES.
In the webinar I go over FAQs and basic facts about PNES, explain how a diagnosis of PNES is made, discuss the main psychiatric comorbidities of PNES (and more importantly, underscore that PNES is clearly a psychological condition that falls smack in the middle of psychologists’ scope of practice), go over empirical evidence for effective psychotherapeutic treatments, and finally close with practical tips on how to work with a patient who carries a diagnosis of psychogenic seizures.
I truly hope that in the near future I will see a decrease in emails that tell me what a struggle it is to find a psychotherapist to treat their PNES. Please feel free to share with anyone you think could benefit from this.
This is the webinar: