Experiences of a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) intervention for fatigue in patients receiving haemodialysis

Frances Waite, Joseph Chilcot, Rona Moss‐Morris, Ken Farrington, Federica Picariello

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Abstract: Background: A feasibility randomised‐controlled trial found that a cognitive‐behavioural therapy intervention for renal fatigue has the potential to reduce fatigue in patients receiving haemodialysis, but uptake was low.

Objectives: Nested in the randomised‐controlled trial (RC) qualitative interviews were undertaken to understand the acceptability of renal fatigue, the facilitators of, and barriers to, engagement, and the psychosocial processes of change.

Design: The trial included 24 participants at baseline. Semi‐structured interviews were conducted with nine participants from the intervention arm (n = 12). Approach Interviews were carried out immediately following treatment (3 months post‐randomisation). Data were analysed using inductive thematic analysis.

Findings: Five main themes were formulated. The overarching theme was a sense of coherence (whether the illness, symptoms and treatment made sense to individuals), which appeared to be central to acceptability and engagement. Two themes captured the key barriers and facilitators to engagement, cognitive and illness/treatment burdens and collaboration with the therapist. Participants described changes related to their activity, thoughts and social identity/interactions, which shaped perceptions of change in fatigue. Lastly, participants discussed the optimal delivery of the intervention.

Conclusions: This study revealed the importance of patients' understanding of fatigue and acceptance of the treatment model for the acceptability of and engagement with a cognitive‐behavioural therapy‐based intervention for fatigue. Overall, there was an indication that such an intervention is acceptable to patients and the mechanisms of change align with the proposed biopsychosocial model of fatigue. However, it needs to be delivered in a way that is appealing and practical to patients, acknowledging the illness and treatment burdens.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Renal Care
Early online date25 Mar 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Mar 2022


  • cognitive behavioural therapy
  • dialysis
  • fatigue
  • kidney failure
  • quality of life


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