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Psychogenic Non Epileptic Seizures (PNES) Treatment Program

A psychogenic non-epileptic attack is an event that looks similar to an epileptic attack but it happens without the abnormal electrical changes that take place during epileptic attacks. Triggers of Psychogenic non-epileptic seizure (PNES) attacks are emotional. A good number of patients who come to our center to be tested for epilepsy are eventually given this diagnosis.   PNES is treated by psychologists and psychiatrists rather than neurologists. It is most helpful if the mental health professionals are knowledgeable about PNES and epilepsy.

A little over a year ago, we launched a multi-site treatment program for patients with non epileptic seizures. Once the diagnosis is established by the patient’s treating epileptologist, the patient is referred for a comprehensive psychological intake to be completed by one of our two clinical psychologists, Dr. Lorna Myers, Dr. Fran Melendez and Urmi Vaidya, LCSW.  Findings from this interview, along with results of VEEG monitoring, and neuropsychological testing help to determine whether the patient could receive benefit from the treatment we offer for this condition.

Treatment consists of either group or individual psychotherapy.  Group psychotherapy is a structured, 12 session, skills, education, and trauma based intervention that helps the patient better understand his/her condition. It provides specific techniques to better manage affect, stress, and anger which can then secondarily reduce seizure frequency.  Mindfulness and relaxation based exercises are also used to help the patient increase healthy coping behaviors. Individual psychotherapy can take one of two forms: Prolonged Exposure Treatment for those patients who carry a dual diagnosis of PNES and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD or the individual treatment design that is used in group treatment, but is somewhat less structured and longer in duration (24 sessions, on average).  Individual treatment can provide more in depth analysis of internal dynamics and relationships that may be playing a role in perpetuating the patient’s seizures. All treatment modalities offer a supportive environment while simultaneously aiming to teach the patient skills and techniques to learn to reduce or eliminate the non epileptic events, attain a healthier and more adaptive way of functioning, and improve stress coping methods.  Once the patient completes the therapy program, a monthly drop-in support group is also available.  Additionally, should it be necessary, referral for psychiatric medication management is also coordinated.

If you have further questions about this program, please contact Dr. Myers at 212-661-7460, option 5 or lmyers@epilepsygroup.com, or Urmi Vaidya at (914) 428-9213. Currently, services are being offered in White Plains, Staten Island, Manhattan, and Middletown, NY and in Hackensack, Summit, NJ.

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