There is an increasing recognition of the importance of patient engagement and involvement in health research, specifically within the field of rheumatology. In general, researchers in this specialty appreciate the value of patients as partners in research. In practice, however, the majority of researchers does not involve patients on their research teams. Many researchers find it difficult to match their needs for patient engagement and the potential contributions from individuals living with rheumatic disease. In this Viewpoint, we provide researchers and patients practical tips for matching 'supply and demand,' based on our own experiences as patient engagement consultants and trainers in rheumatology research. All authors started as a 'naïve' patient or caregiver, an identity that evolved through a process of 'adversarial growth': positive changes that are experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances. Here, we introduce four stages of adversarial growth in the context of research. We submit that all types of patients have their own experiences, qualities and skills, and can add specific input to research. The recommendations for engagement are not strict directives. They are meant as starting points for discussion or interview. Regardless of individual qualities and knowledge, we believe that all patients engaged in research have a single goal in common: to contribute to research that ultimately will change the lives of many other patients.