Can we improve cognitive-behavioral therapy for chronic back pain treatment engagement and adherence? A controlled trial of tailored versus standard therapy

Health Psychol. 2014 Sep;33(9):938-47. doi: 10.1037/a0034406. Epub 2013 Dec 2.


Objective: This study evaluated whether tailored cognitive-behavioral therapy (TCBT) that incorporated preferences for learning specific cognitive and/or behavioral skills and used motivational enhancement strategies would improve treatment engagement and participation compared with standard CBT (SCBT). We hypothesized that participants receiving TCBT would show a lower dropout rate, attend more sessions, and report more frequent intersession pain coping skill practice than those receiving SCBT. We also hypothesized that indices of engagement and adherence would correlate with pre- to posttreatment changes in outcome factors.

Method: One hundred twenty-eight of 161 consenting persons with chronic back pain who completed baseline measures were allocated to either TCBT or SCBT using a modified randomization procedure. Participants completed daily ratings of pain coping skill practice and goal accomplishment during treatment, as well as measures of pain severity, disability, and other key outcomes at the end of treatment.

Results: No significant differences between treatment groups were noted on measures of treatment engagement or adherence. However, these factors were significantly related to some pre- to posttreatment improvements in outcomes, regardless of treatment condition.

Conclusions: Participants in this study evidenced a high degree of participation and adherence, but treatment tailored to take into account participant preferences, and that employed motivational enhancement strategies, failed to increase treatment participation over and above SCBT for chronic back pain. Evidence that participation and adherence were associated with positive outcomes supports continued clinical and research efforts focusing on these therapeutic processes.

Trial registration: NCT00108381.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Back Pain / psychology
  • Back Pain / therapy*
  • Chronic Pain / psychology
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Connecticut
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Patient Compliance
  • Severity of Illness Index

Associated data