In order to examine the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) three patients groups were studied: a cognitive behavioral therapy group (CBT), an occupational therapy group (OT), and a waiting-list control group. The CBT received a comprehensive, 10-session treatment package that taught progressive relaxation, rational thinking and the differential use of pain coping strategies. CBT resulted in minor changes in pain coping behavior at posttreatment, while CBT and OT showed an increase of knowledge of RA. No therapeutic effects with regard to health status were demonstrated at posttreatment and at 6 months follow-up. Clinical and laboratory measures of disease activity revealed progressive deterioration of the patients during the course of the study. It is suggested that the ineffectiveness of CBT might be due to the progressive course of RA in the patients studied, as well as to the rather small changes in coping behavior.