Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Objectives: Recent trials have produced optimistic results for family-focussed cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in young people. This study sought to examine the under-researched question of the views and experiences of patients and families who take part. Design: Semi-structured interviews and qualitative analysis were chosen in order to address clients' perspectives in depth. Methods: Sixteen young people and sixteen parents who participated in a trial of CBT versus psycho-education (PE) for CFS were interviewed. Key themes were discerned using inductive thematic analysis. Results: Most families had low expectations of a cure but hope for improvement. Generally speaking, participants found both CBT and PE acceptable and helpful. Behavioural aspects of CBT (e.g. goal-setting, graded activity) were found helpful. The opportunity to gain support, recognition and validation was important. Cognitive elements of therapy were sometimes deemed inappropriate and some felt emotional aspects of CFS were not adequately addressed. Participants were ambivalent towards the extent of family involvement. Negative experiences related to the therapy setting and feeling inappropriately labeled. Most participants felt therapy was a stepping-stone towards normal life, although many felt recovery was incomplete. Very few differences were found between themes from CBT and PE participants. A notable exception was that every young person who experienced CBT described therapy as helpful, whereas the participants who strongly opposed the therapy approach had all experienced PE. Conclusions: The detailed insights regarding families' therapy experiences suggest areas of improvement for service delivery and topics for further investigation. © 2010 The British Psychological Society.

Original publication




Journal article


British journal of health psychology

Publication Date





167 - 183