Internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy for patients with rheumatoid arthritis

PhD researcher Maaike Ferwerda from the medical centre of Radboud University undertook a research to investigate the impact of internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy (iCBT) with patients suffering rheumatoid arthritis.

The study showed that iCBT treatment improves the quality of life for patients who suffer from the illness. In addition, patients enjoy the freedom and patient empowerment which it enables through iCBT.

The impact of iCBT Treatments

Existing literature shows that iCBT treatments have been scientifically proven to be effective in terms of improving mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. In addition to this, iCBT is also used to treat people with chronic somatic disorders.

Research also shows that iCBT improves psychological outcomes of patients and reduces disease-related physical issues such as pain and fatigue. The overall burden on life by the respective disease is reduced through the help of iCBT.

iCBT Benefits

Most patients who are subject to internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy see many benefits in this type of treatment. The main advantages identified are;

  • reduced travel time
  • reduced overall costs
  • no waiting times

In addition to this, patient’s welcome the opportunity to have an active role within their treatment. Patients are able to choose when they want to participate in treatment and when not, which eliminates the possibility of wasting valuable time when waiting for the therapists or other important factors that are out of the patient’s control. The majority of all respondents indicated that they are prepared to start internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy.

iCBT treatment for chronic somatic disorders

After studying literature and various information sources, the researcher developed an own tailor guided iCBT for patients with chronic somatic disorders and increased stress. The designed treatment from the researcher was offered on Karify’s eHealth platform. Providing the self-designed treatment on Karify, the researcher carried out a research to show the impact of the self-designed iCBT.

Improving the Quality of Life

Two detailed cases with pre- and post-tests showed that patients with psoriasis and rheumatism achieve their before defined goals and improve overall well-being through the iCBT treatment.

The iCBT treatment was also evaluated in a randomized study with patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and additional elevated stress levels. In addition to standard care, participants had access to the iCBT intervention, with weekly digital contact with psychologists via the eHealth platform. The treatment showed effect in the following areas:

  1. Improvement in the psychological well-being of patients
  2. Reduced limitations/ due to less emotional issues/conflicts with others
  3. Indications could be seen that suggest pain and fatigue decreased
  4. Lower dropout numbers
  5. Increased quality of life



Having conducted this extensive research, the final recommendation of the researcher, Ferwerda, was that the iCBT treatment should be offered as a standard part of rheumatic patient care in the Netherlands, as the majority of patients benefit from this treatment.  

See more information about the researcher, Maaike Ferwerda: