Motivational interviewing for low mood and adjustment early after stroke: a feasibility randomised trial

Patel, Kulsum, Watkins, Caroline Leigh orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9403-3772, Sutton, Chris J orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-6406-1318, Holland, Emma-Joy orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3029-7573, Benedetto, Valerio orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4683-0777, Auton, Malcolm Frederick orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8173-8159, Barer, David, Chatterjee, Kausik and Lightbody, Catherine Elizabeth orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-5016-3471 (2018) Motivational interviewing for low mood and adjustment early after stroke: a feasibility randomised trial. Pilot and Feasibility Studies, 4 (152).

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Management of psychological adjustment and low mood after stroke can result in positive health outcomes. We have adapted a talk-based therapy, motivational interviewing (MI), and shown it to be potentially effective for managing low mood and supporting psychological adjustment post-stroke in a single-centre trial. In the current study, we aimed to explore the feasibility of delivering MI using clinical stroke team members, and using an attention control (AC), to inform the protocol for a future definitive trial.


This parallel two-arm feasibility trial took place in north-west England. Recruitment occurred between December 2012 and November 2013. Participants were stroke patients aged 18 years or over, who were medically stable, had no severe communication problems, and were residents of the hospital catchment. Randomisation was to MI or AC, and was conducted by a researcher not involved in recruitment using opaque sealed envelopes. The main outcome measures were descriptions of study feasibility (recruitment/retention rates, MI delivery by clinical staff, use of AC) and acceptability (through qualitative interviews and completion of study measures), and fidelity to MI and AC (through review of session audio-recordings). Information was also collected on participants’ mood, quality of life, adjustment, and resource-use.


Over 12 months, 461 patients were screened, 124 were screened eligible, and 49 were randomised: 23 to MI, 26 to AC. At 3 months, 13 MI and 18 AC participants completed the follow-up assessment (63% retention). This was less than expected based on our original trial. An AC was successfully implemented. Alternative approaches would be required to ensure the feasibility of clinical staff delivering MI. The study measures, MI, and AC interventions were considered acceptable, and there was good fidelity to the interventions. There were no adverse events related to study participation.


It was possible to recruit and retain participants, train clinical staff to deliver MI, and implement an appropriate AC. Changes would be necessary to conduct a future multi-centre trial, including: assuming a recruitment rate lower than that in the current study; implementing more strategies to increase participant retention; and considering alternative clinical staff groups to undertake the delivery of MI and AC.

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