ME Association blog post, 13 July 2017: ME Association provide new research grant to Dr Keith Geraghty to examine two controversial ME/CFS treatments recommended by NICE

ME Association trustees have approved a new research grant that will critically examine the theoretical basis that underlies the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Graded Exercise Therapy (GET) in ME/CFS.

The £25,000 grant – over two years – has been given to Dr Keith Geraghty at the University of Manchester and will challenge and review the theoretical basis and clinical application of CBT and GET in the NHS.

Dr Geraghty is an Honorary Research Fellow in Population Health, Health Sciences Research and Primary Care, where his work focuses on ME and CFS.

This new grant will fund an incremental study, in two main phases: phase 1 being a theoretical exploration of the CBT-model of ME/CFS and phase 2 being an empirical study of patients’ experiences of CBT and GET.

Its aim will be to better understand why clinical trials are reporting seemingly different effects than are demonstrated in patient surveys and clinical outcomes.

The hypotheses driving this research are that many of the benefits reported in clinical trials, even where modest, may actually come from factors unrelated to illness belief modification, such as therapy effects, stress management advice, lifestyle advice, the power of suggestion (being asked to think more positively).

The research will also examine whether patients are adequately informed of the rationale for CBT and GET therapies, or are entered into such treatments with strong promotion by physicians and therapists – thus increasing therapy and expectancy effects.

Also, that many false positive cases of ME/CFS may be diagnosed (primarily mental health complaints that mimic the symptoms of ME/CFS – such as fatigue and sleep disturbance), in the absence of careful screening and a proper understanding of the illness. This could mean we are not seeing a true record of outcomes for a ME/CFS population.

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