Seizure Smart Mental Health Professional Network
Through a $20,000 grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan will develop and maintain a network of psychotherapists who understand epilepsy and psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) and commit to serving patients with these conditions. Epilepsy and PNES are two related but distinct conditions, which can sometimes co-occur. Epilepsy is commonly associated with mental health challenges, including mood and anxiety disorders, and several factors unique to epilepsy contribute to this association. PNES is, itself, a mental health disorder that is often diagnosed at a comprehensive epilepsy center. Psychotherapy (including cognitive behavioral therapy and other modalities) is the first-line treatment for PNES and an effective treatment for the mood and anxiety disorders often associated with epilepsy. Specialized knowledge of epilepsy and PNES can maximize treatment adherence and the ultimate effectiveness of psychotherapy for each condition. A counselor who lacks this knowledge or is unfamiliar with the unique needs of each population is less likely to retain the patient and implement a treatment plan that will be effective.

Through this project, we will work to improve the effectiveness of psychotherapy for people with epilepsy and people with PNES through the following activities:

  • Development of a three-hour training for psychotherapists on epilepsy, the unique factors that affect mental health in those with epilepsy, and psychogenic nonepileptic seizures
  • Provision of this training to a projected 100 psychotherapists and maintenance of a database of trained providers (the Seizure Smart Mental Health Professional Network)
  • Regular follow-up, networking support, and sharing of professional development opportunities for network members
  • Use of the network database to help people with epilepsy and people with PNES find psychotherapists who have additional knowledge of and comfort with these conditions

Andrea Thomas, MA, LLP - psychologist with the Henry Ford Comprehensive Epilepsy Program - will provide expert guidance in the development and provision of the training. We're also happy to have promotional and advisory support from the Michigan Psychological Association, the University of Michigan Health Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, and the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado - which has implemented a similar program. The start date for the project is July 1, 2021. If you would like to learn more or get involved in this important initiative, please contact Russ Derry at 248-809-4744. Additional information on the training, the network, and how to find a network provider will be added to this website as the project progresses. 

Project Partners

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund works to improve the health and wellness of Michigan residents and reduce the cost of healthcare, with a special focus on children and seniors. You can find more information about the Health Fund at