Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Family-focused cognitive behaviour therapy versus psycho-education for chronic fatigue syndrome in 11- to 18-year-olds: a randomized controlled treatment trial

T. Chaldera1 c1, V. Dearya2, K. Husaina3 and R. Walwyna4

a1 Department of Psychological Medicine and Psychiatry, King's College London, Weston Education Centre, London, UK

a2 Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK

a3 Psychology Department, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow, UK

a4 Mental Health and Neuroscience Clinical Trials Unit, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK


Background Only one previous randomized controlled trial (RCT) has examined the efficacy of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in children. The aim of this study was to compare family-focused CBT with psycho-education for CFS in adolescents.

Method Sixty-three 11- to 18-year-olds (43 girls, 20 boys) with CFS were randomly assigned to either family-focused CBT or psycho-education delivered over 6 months. School attendance was the main outcome, which was assessed at the end of treatment and at 3, 6 and 12 months follow-up.

Results At the main outcome point (the 6-month follow-up) both groups had improved similarly. However, although those who received family-focused CBT were attending school for longer than those who received psycho-education, at discharge from treatment and at 3 months follow-up, they improved less quickly across the follow-up period.

Conclusions Adolescents with CFS get back to school more quickly after family-focused CBT. This is important as they are at a crucial stage of their development. However, the finding that psycho-education was as effective as family-focused CBT at 6 and 12 months follow-up has important implications for health service delivery.

(Received April 17 2008)

(Revised September 07 2009)

(Accepted September 14 2009)

(Online publication November 06 2009)


c1 Address for correspondence: Professor T. Chalder, Department of Psychological Medicine and Psychiatry, King's College London, Weston Education Centre, Cutcombe Road, London SE5 9RJ, UK. (Email:

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