A cognitive behavioural therapy for depression in people with MS

Dr Litza Kiropoulos

Dr Litza Kiropoulos

The University of Melbourne, VIC

| Better treatments | Social And Applied Research | Project | 2016 | Investigator Led Research |


High levels of depression and anxiety have been found immediately following an MS diagnosis. This project, led by Dr Litza Kiropoulos, has brought together a multidisciplinary team of internationally recognised MS researchers to investigate whether a specialised psychological intervention is effective in treating depression in people newly diagnosed with MS.

Dr Kiropoulos and her colleagues have developed a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)-based intervention tailored to people newly diagnosed with MS. The intervention deals with issues specific to people with MS, including education about MS symptoms, course of the disease, prognosis and relapse prevention; strategies to increase adjustment to a new MS diagnosis; fatigue and pain management; breathing and relaxation exercises; problem solving skills; and sleep hygiene.

In this project, Dr Kiropoulos will conduct a randomised controlled trial with 60 participants who will be randomly allocated to receive either the tailored CBT intervention or a Supportive Listening group where people receive unstructured counselling. The trial aims to determine whether the CBT is beneficial for reducing depression in people diagnosed with MS within the last two years. The trial will also look at any benefits on anxiety, fatigue, pain, sleep quality, coping, social support, and acceptance of illness.

The tailored CBT intervention has the potential to increase work retention, improve quality of life, help with management of common MS-related symptoms such as fatigue, pain, and sleep difficulties and improve overall treatment adherence.

Progress to Date

In this phase II clinical trial, Dr Kiropoulos and her team are investigating the effectiveness of a cognitive behavioural therapy intervention compared to supportive listening to treat depression (primary outcome), anxiety (secondary outcome) and other outcomes (tertiary) in those newly diagnosed with MS.

Following the ethics approval from multiple institutions, the addition of a new clinical institution to the list of bodies recruiting for this study, the employment of staff to conduct this study, and the finalisation of treatment regimens for the two programs, the researchers are in the process of recruiting participants to the trial and administering the intervention. Recruitment was significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and is ongoing.

To date, 50 participants have completed the trial, although the researchers would like to recruit another 10 participants.

Dr Kiropoulos has presented her research findings at national conferences and workshops and has published a scientific manuscript detailing the methods for this trial.


Kiropoulos L., Kilpatrick T., Kalincek T., Cherulov L., McDonald, E., Wijeratne T. O’Brien-Simpson N., Rozenblat V., Threader J., & Taylor L. (2020). Comparison of the effectiveness of a tailored cognitive behavioural therapy with a supportive listening intervention for depression in those newly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (the ACTION-MS trial): protocol of an assessor-blinded, active comparator, randomised controlled trial. Trials21(1), 100. doi: 10.1186/s13063-019-4018-8

Updated 31 March 2022

Updated: 26 January, 2016



Grant Awarded

  • Project Grant

Total Funding

  • $180,000


  • 6 years over 2016 - 2022

Funding Partner

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A cognitive behavioural therapy for depression in people with MS