Patients with rheumatoid arthritis must learn to adjust their exercise, rest and medication to the varying activity of the disease. Patient education can help patients in making the right decisions about adjustments in their treatment regimen and in attaining "self-management" behaviors. We developed a group education program based on social learning theory and the 'Arthritis Self-Management Course' developed in the USA by Lorig. Goal of the program is the strengthening of self-efficacy, outcome expectations and self-management behaviors of RA patients which may lead to better health status. The program has been evaluated in an experimental design. We established significant positive effects of the group training on functional disability, joint tenderness, practice of relaxation and physical exercises, self-management behavior, outcome expectations, self-efficacy function and knowledge. After 14 months we still found effects on practice of physical exercises, self-efficacy function and knowledge.