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Family Presence During Electroconvulsive Therapy

Elias, Alby MD, FRANZCP*; Ang, Angela OND; Schneider, Andrew MBBS; George, Kuruvilla MBBS, FRANZCP, FRCPsych

doi: 10.1097/YCT.0000000000000559
Original Studies

Background The practice of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is often hampered by stigma and myths prevailing among patients and families. Family attendance at ECT has not been systematically studied.

Methods From January 2017 to May 2018, 69 consecutive patients were approached for family attendance at ECT. The inclusion criteria for entry to the ECT suite were consent from families and patients, age older than 18 years, and 1 family member at a time. After watching ECT, family members completed a multiple-choice questionnaire regarding their experience.

Results Twenty-one family members watched ECT. A majority viewed the idea of attendance at ECT as reassuring, and a few indicated that it was anxiety provoking. Five participants (24%) felt distressed while watching the procedure, whereas 16 family members rated their experience as comfortable or rewarding (76%). In terms of the outcome, a clear majority have responded that watching the procedure alleviated their fears of ECT or provided transformative knowledge, whereas others felt no change in their attitude toward ECT (71% vs 29%). Most of the participants recommended watching ECT to other family members, whereas a minority was uncertain about their opinion (62% vs 38%). There were no adverse effects, premature exit from the ECT suite, interferences with treatment, or litigations.

Conclusions A clear majority of families viewed their attendance at ECT as a beneficial experience. Family presence during ECT may have the potential to promulgate its practice by reducing stigma and misconceptions.

From the *Department of Psychiatry, The University of Melbourne; and

Peter James Centre, Eastern Health, Victoria, Australia.

Received for publication July 26, 2018; accepted October 5, 2018.

Reprints: Alby Elias, MD, FRANZCP, Department of Psychiatry, The University of Melbourne, 145 Studley St, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia (e-mail:

The authors have no conflicts of interest or financial disclosures to report.

Online date: December 10, 2018

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