Team and Services
Emotional, behavioral, and cognitive symptoms are common in individuals with MS and can affect their quality of life and functioning. The most frequent psychiatric difficulties in MS are depression, anxiety, and cognitive dysfunction. Other bothersome manifestations may include irritability and pathological affect. It is important to evaluate and treat those symptoms. In addition, it is equally important to focus on positive adaptation: to help individuals and families cope well with MS and learn to manage stress. The goal of our MS behavioral health team is to help individuals with MS lead fulfilling lives and stay as healthy as possible in all spheres.
Evaluation by the behavioral team
With some variations depending on the situation and the individual’s needs, our typical first step is to conduct a comprehensive assessment. This includes the understanding of both, the clinical presentation and the potential factors behind those symptoms. For instance, factors that can contribute to emotional or cognitive symptoms in MS include central nervous system inflammation, MS brain lesions, and side effects of medications. From the psychological perspective, high level of stress, limited family or social support, and the individual’s coping style may influence the psychiatric symptoms.
We offer a menu of possible treatments and recommend specific tools to our patients depending on their needs. The treatment plan is designed in partnership with the patient, involving caregivers when appropriate. Our treatment approach is interdisciplinary – we coordinate care with MS neurologists, rehabilitation therapists, and other specialists, as necessary. We offer psychotherapy and psychopharmacological treatment. We actively collaborate with our Brigham and Women’s colleagues, and our patients have access to the different treatment modalities offered in our Brigham and Women’s Department of Psychiatry and our Brigham and Women’s Center for Brain/Mind Medicine including cognitive behavioral Therapy, cognitive rehabilitation, group psychotherapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and others. Please see the links below, for more information about those resources.
Elizabeth Misasi, LICSW: Liz conducts psychosocial assessments and provides psychotherapy. She also educates our patients about helpful community resources and assists them in connecting to those resources.
Lindsay Barker, PhD: Dr. Barker conducts neuropsychological evaluations, an in-depth assessment of skills and abilities linked to brain function. This test evaluates functioning in a number of areas including executive functions, attention, memory, language, and perception.
Laura Safar, MD: Dr. Safar conducts neuropsychiatric evaluations, with a focus on understanding the presenting symptomatology and potential diagnoses. She educates our patients on psychiatric symptoms in MS and their treatment. She sees patients for one-time consultations and ongoing treatment, and supervises psychiatry residents and fellows in their assessment and treatment of patients with MS.
Brigham and Women’s Department of Psychiatry:
Brigham and Women’s Center for Brain/Mind Medicine: