For some patients with a chronic condition, the amount of medical appointments they need to attend, and their length of time, can become overwhelming.
There are many barriers to receiving behavioral health care, in particular. These include financial barriers, such as cost of treatment or transportation, difficulty in finding time to make it to therapy appointments and challenges finding a mental health professional who delivers evidence-based treatment and understands the nuances of your particular condition." Anna Kratz, Ph.D., associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and research psychologist at Michigan Medicine
Much of Kratz's work focuses on increasing access to behavioral health care for people with multiple sclerosis (MS).
"People with MS, a disease of the brain and nervous system, commonly experience chronic pain, fatigue and depressed mood," says Kratz, also a member of the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. "The good news is that there are things that people can do in their everyday lives to both decrease the level of these symptoms and the impact of these symptoms on their life."
To help patients with MS access behavioral health care for managing these symptoms, Kratz and colleagues developed a free, web-based symptom self-management program called My MS Toolkit.
"The team of psychologists who developed this website took the information, support and skill practice that we would deliver in a therapy session with a person with MS and put it on the web, as to decrease the barriers MS patients may have to getting behavioral health care," she says.
Kratz explains more about the toolkit's unique features: It's for anyone with MS.
The completely online program is free and available to anyone (not just Michigan Medicine patients) with MS, and it's ideal for people who are having difficulty managing chronic pain, fatigue or depressed mood.
"This website was created to provide a program, supported by research, to anyone who has access to the internet in an effort to increase access to self-management care," Kratz says.
"We realize not everyone lives near a large medical center like Michigan Medicine and even if they do live near a center with qualified therapists for MS, waitlists to see a therapist are often long." It's easy to follow and convenient.
The program includes nine steps, or modules, that include various components such as tips, videos, audio recordings and worksheets to actively engage participants. Related Stories
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