Study launches using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to prevent job loss in MS

23 Mar 2021

A brand new study, funded by the MS Society, is underway to see if an online course of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can be used within vocational rehabilitation to prevent job loss for those with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Up to 60-70% of people with MS leave employment within ten years of MS onset. There are complex personal and workplace factors which influence job loss, but self-efficacy has been highlighted as a key factor in job retention for those with MS.

ACT has been shown to improve self-efficacy, just one of the many potentially beneficial uses, and a bespoke group ACT course called ‘READY for MS’ has been developed at the University of Queensland, Australia.

This new study, MS-PROACTIVE, will develop and test a new online version of READY for MS as a means of supporting people with MS to stay in work, and will trial its use amongst 88 employed people living with MS. As well as monitoring self-efficacy, MS-PROACTIVE will also measure whether it can improve other measures such as resilience, fatigue and mood.

The project is led by Dr Helen Ford, one of the core members of the 'Raising the Bar for MS' workstream 'Living well with MS' addressing lifestyle, wellbeing and social determinants of health in MS.

‘Early job loss is a major issue for people with MS. Many people living with MS would like to stay in work but face complex challenges in the workplace. The ‘READY for MS’ course aims to support people with MS in dealing with these challenges.’

Dr Helen Ford, consultant neurologist and Chief Investigator for MS-PROACTIVE

Prof Helen Ford

Clinical professor of neurology, Leeds Teaching Hospitals/University of Leeds

There are significant links and interdependencies between unemployment and health outcomes with poverty, stress, unhealthy behaviours, and implications for future employment all potentially impacting health (Bartley, 1994) and increased likelihood of mental health difficulties including depression and anxiety (Paul and Moser, 2009).

The trial aims to measure the feasibility of using this intervention in the NHS long term, through analysing self-reporting questionnaires at intervals throughout the 6 month study.

Further reading

  • McFadden E, Horton MC, Ford HL, Gilworth G, McFadden M, Tennant A. 'Screening for the risk of job loss in multiple sclerosis: development of a MS-specific Work Instability Scale (MS-WIS).' Multiple Sclerosis 2012; 18:862-870

  • Ford HL, Wicks C, Stroud A, Tennant A. 'Psychological determinants of job retention in multiple sclerosis.' Multiple Sclerosis Journal 2019; 25(3):419-426

  • Evidence in support of ACT as a treatment or management tool for various healthcare-related needs via NICE evidence.

  • Silje L. Kaspersen, Kristine Pape, Gunnhild Å. Vie, Solveig O. Ose, Steinar Krokstad, David Gunnell, Johan H. Bjørngaard, 'Health and unemployment: 14 years of follow-up on job loss in the Norwegian HUNT Study', European Journal of Public Health, Volume 26, Issue 2, April 2016, Pages 312–317,

  • Bartley M, 'Unemployment and ill health: understanding the relationship', Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 1994;48:333-337 accessed here

  • Paul KI, Moser K, 'Unemployment impairs mental health: Meta-analyses', Journal of Vocational Behavior, Volume 74, Issue 3, June 2009, Pages 264-282,

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