In order to personalize the treatment for somatic symptom disorder (SSD), an extensive overview of treatment goals is needed. The individualization of therapy goals may improve the small to moderate effect sizes of psychotherapeutic treatment of patients with somatic symptom disorder. The aim of the current study is to identify and structure an encompassing set of individual goals from the perspective of experienced clinicians.
To obtain an overview of the treatment goals, seventeen experienced clinicians were interviewed. Eventually, 136 goals were derived from the interviews. These goals were sorted by fifteen clinicians independently in a card-sorting task. In the first card sorting task, clinicians sorted the goals based on similarity of meaning. In the second card-sorting task, the clinicians sorted the goals from individual to general. Hierarchical cluster analysis was used to structure the goals. For the second card-sorting task, descriptive statistics were computed.
Hierarchical cluster analysis showed ten clusters classified in three broad categories: activation (physical complaints, balance daily schedule, activaties), mental functioning (resilience, cognitive, psychopathology) and positive psychology (emotion regulation, body relatedness, self-esteem and coping). The clusters physical complaints, activaties, psychopathology and self-esteem were rated as more individual clusters.
This study revealed an encompassing hierarchical structure of treatment goals based on the perspective of experienced clinicians. These treatment goals can be used as a screening tool in the intake with somatic symptom disorder patients. Patient-based measures can promote shared decision making and help to adjust the therapy to the preferences of the individual patient.