A diagnosis of systemic sclerosis (SSc) can be extremely stressful for patients, and it is important that patients receive appropriate support to reduce emotional distress. Some patients may benefit from an interdisciplinary care program that incorporates physical therapy, occupational therapy, and specialized nurse care, according to a case study from a team in the Netherlands and Montreal, Canada.
The main goal of the study, “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Targeting Fear of Progression in an Interdisciplinary Care Program: A Case Study in Systemic Sclerosis,” was to identify how different interventions can benefit patients with chronic illnesses who experience “uncertainty about the future, fear of disease progression, fear of becoming physically disabled, and a reduced life expectancy.”
Previous reports have described evidence of cognitive-behavioral interventions improving patient pain management, anti-depressant feelings, and body image. Others have used both psychological and rehabilitation interventions to aid SSc patients.
Since fear of disease progression and symptoms of depression are strongly associated, the researchers stated it is important to target both factors simultaneously with psychological interventions. Moreover, since pain and fatigue are associated with depression, the researchers believed therapies should also address these symptoms.
After designing an individualized intervention program that incorporated face-to-face interactions with therapists and clinicians, the researchers provided treatment to one SSc patient. The patient had a positive experience during the intervention period, showing signs of improved emotional feelings toward the disease.
As SSc is a highly unpredictable disease that varies in degree of severity and organ involvement, individualized treatment may be important to the efficacy of intervention programs. But since the majority of patients share similar concerns, the interventions used in this study may benefit a wide range of afflicted SSc patients.