Effects of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on symptoms and emotional competencies in individuals with multiple sclerosis


      • MBSR and ACT (vs. a control condition) are beneficial for symptom management in multiple sclerosis.
      • MBSR and ACT (vs. a control condition) are beneficial for the improvement of emotional competencies in persons with multiple sclerosis.
      • There are no significant differences between the efficacy of MBSR and ACT on the improvement of symptoms and emotional competencies.



      Compared to the general population, individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) report higher levels of insomnia, depression, fatigue, and paresthesia, and lower levels of emotional competencies (understanding emotions in self and others). Available treatments are limited, and novel approaches to reducing symptoms and enhancing emotional competencies in MS are needed. Two potentially beneficial treatments are Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The aim of the present study was to investigate the impact of ACT and MBSR on symptoms and emotional competencies in patients with MS.


      A total of 76 individuals with MS (81.6% females; mean age: 38.88 years; EDSS median: 2; range: 0–5) were randomly assigned to an 8-week ACT treatment, an 8-week MBSR treatment, or a wait-list control condition. At baseline and study-end (week 8), participants completed a series of questionnaires covering symptoms and emotional competencies. At mid-term (week 4), participants rated their insomnia and depression.


      Over time, symptoms of MS decreased (medium effect size for insomnia, fatigue, and paresthesia, and large effect size for depression) and emotional competencies improved (large effect size), but more so in the MBSR and ACT conditions, compared with the control condition. At study-end, the outcome improvement did not differ between the ACT and MBSR conditions.


      Both ACT and MBSR led to reduced symptoms and enhanced emotional competencies. Psychotherapeutic interventions such as these should be considered as a means of decreasing symptoms and increasing emotional competencies among individuals with MS.


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