What is psychological treatment?

Psychological treatment is sometimes called ‘talking therapy’, but it involves much more than having a friendly chat. Non-epileptic attacks happen for very different reasons in different people. This means that psychotherapy for non-epileptic attacks has to be adapted to suit different people.

Psychological help can be a long process, and it may take weeks or months before your attacks improve. However, if treatment is started, you can expect your attacks to improve over time.

Depending on your particular situation, psychological treatment may have a number of different aims, explained below.

Explore the causes of attacks

One aim may be to explore the reasons why you have developed non-epileptic attacks and find out what triggers your attacks. There are different types of psychological help which may be offered by people with slightly different types of training.

Learn seizure control techniques

Your therapist will help you to understand your ways of coping with stressful events and explore stresses or problems that are affecting you. You may have a warning of your attacks or you may be able to learn about changes which happen before you go into an attack.

In this case your therapist may be able to teach you techniques which can stop attacks from developing further. People who do not get a warning of their attacks may benefit from relaxation or problem solving training.

Some of these techniques are described in the Self-help section.

Man smiling

Dean says: Your therapist should make you feel safe. They may offer techniques or coping mechanisms for when you have a bad day.

Encourage you to think differently about yourself

Psychological therapies can help you to view past events differently and to view yourself and future stresses more positively.

You may be reluctant to take up psychological help. Some people are concerned about what other people might think; or they worry because they think the doctor must consider them ‘crazy’ if s/he refers them for psychological treatment. This is not the case. People with non-epileptic attacks are not ‘crazy’. They may need guidance to understand and overcome their problems.

Therapy or counselling can be a very positive experience. It’s a chance to talk things through, and explore your own thoughts and feelings about things that matter to you. It can also help you to live more easily with the physical effects of your attacks.

Tackle ways of thinking which contribute to depression and anxiety

The processes that cause non-epileptic attacks may be related to other conditions such as depression and anxiety. These can sometimes be treated better with psychological help than with medication. Both forms of treatment can be used together. Sometimes antidepressant drugs enable people to take part in psychological treatment.

Read more about the different types of psychotherapy

Kate says: “My attacks have subsided and for the first time in four and a half years I feel in control of my life. The reason I think this is possible is for years nobody was able to help me, I began to think I was a fraud and it was my fault these attacks happened.”