$600K Grant Supports Trial of Intervention to Improve Life Quality

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by Lindsey Shapiro, PhD |

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A Kessler Foundation scientist has been awarded nearly $600,000 to support the development and testing of a behavioral therapy intervention aiming to improve quality of life for people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

An upcoming clinical trial into the intervention (NCT05195320), expected to begin in September and run through 2024, plans to enroll 48 adults with MS. Contact and site information is available here.

The $599,831 award — which will be distributed over three years — was given by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) to Lauren Strober, PhD, a senior research scientist at Kessler’s Center for Neuropsychology and Neuroscience Research.

A diagnosis and MS progression can considerably affect a person’s emotional and psychological health, potentially leading to anxiety or depression and to feelings of isolation.

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The intervention, called “Reinventing Yourself After MS,” is being adapted from an existing program for people with spinal cord injury (SCI). It uses positive psychology and behavioral therapy to help with coping skills and well-being.

“The Reinvention intervention is aimed at improving self-efficacy, psychological well-being, and quality of life via cognitive behavioral therapy and positive psychology principles and techniques,” Strober said in a press release.

The two-part trial opens with focus groups of MS patients to discuss topics including disease symptoms, barriers to well-being, and quality of life. Information gained will be used to adapt the SCI program to fit the needs of MS patients. Work here will be done in collaboration with Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado, and other stakeholders.

Next, a randomized controlled trial will help determine if this adapted intervention is feasible and effective.

Enrolled patients will be successively assigned to eight groups of six people each, four intervention and four control (no intervention) groups. Delivered across six weekly two-hour sessions led by a facilitator, the intervention will consist of  group cognitive-behavioral therapy to enhance core skills that improve well-being.

The trial’s main goal is measures of improvement in self-efficacy — a person’s belief in their ability to succeed — among intervention patients relative to controls.

“[Self-efficacy] is a major determinant for how individuals decide what actions to take when faced with an obstacle or challenge. Thus, it is particularly important in managing the emotional and physical impact of MS and can help empower individuals to maintain their health and quality of life,” Strober said.

Another component of the program is positive psychology — a focus on the good things in one’s life — which has been shown to improve well-being.

Researchers anticipate that the intervention will lead to gains in self-efficacy, life satisfaction, and coping skills to help ease depression and anxiety and improve life quality.

“Reinventing Yourself After Spinal Cord Injury,” developed by Craig Hospital in collaboration with Kessler Foundation and the University of Michigan, was also tested in a clinical trial (NCT03390140) and reported to have been effective.

Should its MS version also show benefits, Strober plans to create a reference manual for clinicians working to manage the care of MS patients.

“The end goal is to equip people who have MS with the skills they need to improve their self-efficacy and coping as they adjust to living with MS,” Strober said.

In previous research studies, Strober identified obstacles to employment in people with MS, which also can significantly influence quality of life.

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