Factors influencing motivation of patients diagnosed with depression to have electroconvulsive therapy

Rona G. M. Schuurmans, Esther Krijnen de Bruin, G. C. Roselie van Asperen, Irina E. Poslawsky, Thóra B. Hafsteinsdóttir, Berno van Meijel

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What is known on the subject?: The clinical effect of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has been confirmed for a majority of patients with several psychiatric disorders. ECT is mostly used in patients with severe depression. Choosing, persevering with and completing ECT depends on the patients' motivation for undergoing this therapy. However, the factors influencing patients' motivation for ECT have not yet been studied. What the paper adds to existing knowledge:: Four important factors that influence the motivation of patients diagnosed with major depression to have ECT were identified: (1) psychological pain and distress; (2) perceived need for treatment; (3) perception of ECT as an effective treatment; (4) influence of the environment. The first factor, psychological pain and distress, was perceived as the primary motivator for starting and continuing ECT. What are the implications for practice?: Professionals should be aware of the factors that influence patients to have electroconvulsive therapy and their own role in the decision-making process and during treatment. As patients are susceptible to emotional support and as the motivation of patients for starting and continuing ECT is positively influenced by the advice and support of mental health professionals, these professionals have a key role in motivating patients for ECT. When the patient has decided to start ECT, mental health professionals should explore the factors that influence their motivation and regularly assess these factors so that they can guide the patient in their process. The professional should have an overview of these factors and investigate how they can be positively influenced to help patients keep their motivation during the treatment process. This will contribute to person-centred care and could lead to better treatment outcomes. Abstract: Introduction The factors influencing patients' motivation for undergoing electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) have not yet been subjected to a thorough study. Knowledge of these factors could improve the quality of care for patients with depression recommended to have ECT. Aim To identify the factors that influence the motivation of patients diagnosed with depression to have ECT. Method This qualitative study followed a grounded theory approach in which semi-structured interviews were conducted with 18 patients from four different psychiatric hospitals to study their perspectives on factors influencing their motivation to have ECT. Results The explanatory framework of factors influencing motivation for ECT comprises four main categories, starting with the most important category, psychological pain and distress, and continuing with the following categories: perceived need for treatment; perception of ECT as an effective treatment; environmental influences. Discussion In this study, we found that the psychological pain and distress of depression, and their consequences in daily life, had been the primary experiences that motivated patients to start and continue ECT. Implications for Practice This is the first study that has examined motivational factors for patients with severe depression to participate in ECT. Professionals appear to have a key role in motivating patients for ECT. They should explore factors that influence motivation for ECT, regularly assess their motivation and intervene on influential factors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1019-1026
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of psychiatric and mental health nursing
Issue number5
Early online date2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • depression
  • electroconvulsive therapy
  • motivation

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