Exploring the Feasibility of Relapse Prevention Strategies in Interdisciplinary Multimodal Pain Therapy Programs: Qualitative Study

Stefan Elbers*, Jan Pool, Harriët Wittink, Albère Köke, Rob Smeets

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Although interdisciplinary multimodal pain treatment (IMPT) programs are widely regarded as treatment of choice for patients with chronic pain, there are signs that many patients are unable to maintain their treatment gains in the long term. To facilitate the maintenance of positive treatment outcomes over time, we developed two relapse prevention strategies.

OBJECTIVE: The main objective of this study was to explore the feasibility of these strategies within the context of IMPT programs.

METHODS: We performed a feasibility study using 3 workbook prototypes containing either one or both strategies. For a period of 6 months, the workbooks were made available in two IMPT facilities. Qualitative data were collected through a focus group and semistructured interviews. We performed a thematic analysis using a deductive approach with (1) applicability to the treatment program, (2) acceptability of the workbook content, and (3) form, as predefined themes.

RESULTS: The final dataset consisted of transcripts from a focus group with health care providers and 11 telephone interviews and 2 additional in-depth interviews with patients. In general, the intervention was perceived as useful, easy to use, and in line with the treatment program. The data also include suggestions to further improve the use of both strategies, including more specific implementation guidelines, revised goal-setting procedure, and development of a mobile health version. However, several factors, including a high dropout rate and small sample size, impact the external validity of our findings.

CONCLUSIONS: This study should be regarded as a first step in the process of transforming the prototype workbook into an effective intervention for clinical practice. Although these initial results indicate a favorable evaluation of both behavior regulation strategies within the workbook, this study encountered multiple barriers regarding implementation and data collection that limit the generalizability of these results. Future research efforts should specifically address the fidelity of HCPs and patients and should include clear procedures regarding recruitment and use of both relapse prevention strategies during treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number21545
Pages (from-to)e21545
Number of pages12
JournalJMIR human factors
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2020


  • chronic pain
  • interdisciplinary treatment
  • rehabilitation
  • relapse
  • behavior change
  • goal setting
  • pain
  • behavior
  • feasibility
  • strategy
  • treatment


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