Spcialty Program

Psychogenic Non-epileptic Seizures (Pnes) Program

Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (also known as dissociative or functional seizures) are events that resemble epileptic seizures but are provoked by emotional or physical dysregulation and chronic stress rather than abnormal (epileptiform) brain activity. Treatment for psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) is a team effort by the epileptologist, clinical psychologist, neuropsychologist, and psychiatrist (if needed).

NEREG’s clinicians have a unique and specialized diagnostic and treatment approach for this condition. Once the diagnosis has been made by the epileptologist following VEEG and other testing procedures, a referral is made for a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment that begins with a clinical interview (questions are asked about current and past history, including social, educational, psychological, and medical background). This is followed by a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment that includes a special battery of tests to assess memory, language, attention, and general thinking as well as key emotional factors and personality. With these results, the patient meets with the program director to go over the testing and to make a decision regarding possible treatment options and, if needed, a referral to psychiatry for medication evaluation.

Once it is determined that our program is appropriate for the patient, individual and/or group (12 sessions) psychotherapy can begin. Treatment often targets trauma symptoms, depressive worldviews, anxiety, and problems with anger and stress management. Treatment can be trauma-focused (e.g., prolonged exposure), eclectic (mindfulness-based, CBT, hypnotherapy), or psychoeducational and skills-based. The latter is supportive, but also teaches the patient skills and techniques to learn to reduce or eliminate the non-epileptic events, attain a healthier and adaptive way of functioning, and better stress coping methods. All patients who complete the therapy program are invited to a monthly virtual support group that runs September through June every year. Our PNES program also offers virtual education sessions throughout the year and a yearly conference.

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