Patients with functional dyspepsia were assigned at random to cognitive psychotherapy (10 sessions of 50 min duration, n = 50) or to a control group (no treatment, n = 50). Before treatment all patients were assessed on psychological, somatic and lifestyle factors. If allocated to the therapy group all patients were also asked to define the main problems they wanted to discuss in therapy ('target complaints'). The patients were evaluated at the end of therapy (after 4 months) and at 1 yr follow-up. Outcome measures were dyspeptic symptoms, scores on 'target complaints' and psychological parameters. Both groups showed improvement in dyspeptic and psychological parameters after 1 yr. The improvement in the control group was attributed to a non- specific effect of increased interest and attention. The therapy group showed greater reduction than the control group on dyspeptic symptoms [days of epigastric pain (p = 0.050), nausea (p = 0.024), heartburn (p = 0.021), diarrhoea (p = 0.002) and constipation (p = 0.047)]; and on scores on 'target complaints' (p = 0.001).