Enhancing cognitive-behavioural therapy for recurrent headache: Design of a randomised controlled trial

Paul R. Martin, Sharon Mackenzie, Siavash Bandarian-Balooch, Arissa Brunelli, Simon Broadley, John Reece, Peter J. Goadsby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: We have argued against the traditional approach of counselling avoidance of all triggers of headaches and migraine. Problems with this approach include the impossibility of avoiding all triggers and the high costs associated with trying to do so, and that avoidance could lead to reduced tolerance for the triggers. We have developed an alternative approach called (LCT) that encourages avoidance of triggers that are detrimental to health and wellbeing, but uses exposure to other triggers to desensitise headache sufferers to the triggers. This approach has been shown to be more effective than advising avoidance of all triggers. Trigger management is only one component of a comprehensive treatment program and the current study is designed to evaluate a new approach to treating headaches in which LCT has been integrated into an established cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) package (LCT/CBT). Methods/Design: A target sample of 120 adult participants who suffer from migraine or tension-type headache, at least six days per month, and have done so for at least 12 months will be recruited. Participants will be randomly assigned to one of three groups: LCT/CBT; Avoid/CBT (CBT combined with instructions to avoid all triggers); and waiting-list control. Measures will include: daily diaries for recording headaches, triggers and medication consumption; headache disability and quality of life; trigger avoidance; locus of control and self-efficacy; and coping strategies. Treatment will involve 12 60-minute sessions scheduled weekly. Assessment will be completed before and after treatment, and at 4 and 12 month follow-up. The data will be analysed to determine which approach is most effective, and predictors of response to treatment. Discussion: Migraine and tension-type headache are common and can be disabling. CBT has been demonstrated to be an efficacious treatment for both disorders. However, there is room for improvement. This study aims to increase the efficacy of behavioural approaches and identify factors predictive of a positive response.

Original languageEnglish
Article number233
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive behaviour therapy
  • Coping
  • Desensitisation
  • Headache
  • Migraine

Cite this