Role of Counseling in MS

Counseling has an important place among the different healthcare specialties that contribute to care in MS. Not simply because of the increased risk with MS for a number of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety, but because MS affects the individual in every facet of life, including sense of self and participation in family and community. Therefore, it is particularly important for a person with MS (as well as caregivers, including family and friends) to have access to professionals who are specially trained to help address whatever emotional, psychological, and interpersonal problems arise.


Counseling is typically done by a number of different health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers. These professionals are trained to diagnose and treat mental health conditions. Psychiatrists are specifically trained to prescribe medicines to treat conditions such as depression and anxiety. Many mental health specialists are trained to use talk therapy, counseling, or behavioral interventions to address mental illnesses, interpersonal difficulties, and other psychological and social concerns. Counseling can be done individually, with couples, or in a group setting. Group counseling combines the strengths of a support group with the experience and skills of an experienced group leader and can be a useful resource for a person with MS.

Dealing with the emotional impact of MS

Counseling is an effective tool to help you deal with the emotions that come up at every stage of the disease, from diagnosis to later stages as the disease progresses. In the early stages of MS, you may feel overwhelmed by what’s happening to you. Although each individual will have their own way of dealing with feelings that come up at this time and later on, counseling can be a valuable resource for negotiating feelings that typically include shock, denial, confusion, anger, and anxiety. Counseling may also be helpful as you begin to share information about your diagnosis with friends and family members.

Family and couples counseling

In addition to having an impact on the individual, MS will inevitably affect your family life and friendships. Common feelings that family members or friends may experience when you are diagnosed with MS or as the disease progresses include grief, anxiety, anger, and guilt. With the pressures that MS places on you, you may welcome some help in dealing with whatever interpersonal problems arise with family members or friends. Counseling is a useful option to keep in mind.

Family counseling sessions can provide a safe space for getting feelings and interpersonal issues out in the open and resolving them. Couples counseling is also a useful tool for working on difficult issues with a spouse or partner and restoring the communication and trust that are necessary for a balanced and mutually beneficial partnership. Specific counseling services are available for children and may be of benefit if your child is having emotional difficulty dealing with your illness. Remember, your family and friends will be an important source of support over the long term, so anything you can do to make your relationships stronger and to avoid unresolved conflicts will benefit everyone.

Some Common Emotions Family or Friends May Experience

  • Common reaction the changes that MS may bring to your family or relationships
  • MS threatens to change the way an individual participates in the family and family member may grieve that loss
  • Your family members may be anxious about what the diagnosis of MS may mean for the future
  • Children, in particular, may feel anxious about losing a parent and how that will affect their lives
  • Family members may become angry about how MS is changing their lives and resent what seems to be an unfair situation
  • As a parent loses the ability to do the things they used to be able to do, children may react with anger at that loss of function
  • Parents and children may feel like they did something to cause their family member to develop MS and blame themselves
  • Family members may feel guilty about feeling angry at changes that MS has imposed on a loved one or family

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Written by: Jonathan Simmons | Last reviewed: March 2022.