INTER-ACT MS: can an NHS therapy help people with MS stay in work?

People with MS are at increased risk of leaving work earlier than expected. Research suggests psychological factors play a key role in this. Job loss has also been linked to people having low belief in their own ability and finding it more difficult to manage negative experiences, memories, or thoughts.

About the project

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of behavioural therapy. It combines mindfulness skills with the practice of self-acceptance, to help people address negative thoughts or feelings directly. An Australian ACT-based programme called 'READY' (‘REsilience and Activities for every DaY’) has been developed to specifically help people with MS.

Dr Charlotte Wicks heads the team at Leeds. They've recently co-developed and are piloting a digital version of READY with people with MS in the UK. This programme can be completed on a computer or mobile device, reducing the need to travel or take time off work to visit a psychologist.

The digital READY programme is predominantly self-guided with support from a facilitator. So it offers an intervention option that shouldn’t add significant burden to the healthcare professionals.

This new project will test the effectiveness of READY on a larger scale. They’ll:

  • Train MS healthcare professionals to support the delivery of the programme

  • Test the programme across at least 10 NHS settings to see if it can be delivered widely

  • Assess the long-term effectiveness of the programme in people with MS who are having difficulties at work

  • Improve the programme based on feedback from healthcare professionals and trial participants

How will it help people with MS?

READY could offer an additional support for people with MS who want to stay in work. And could offer a solution that can be made widely available despite lack of NHS resource.

As the READY digital programme is designed to help develop self-worth and the ability to manage uncomfortable feelings, it could be used for more than job retention, but other types of psychological support too.