Thirty-five patients with irritable bowel syndrome were randomized to receive treatment in a stress management programme or conventional therapy which included the antispasmodic Colpermin. The stress management programme involved a median of six 40-min sessions with a physiotherapist during which patients were helped to understand the nature of their symptoms, their relationship to stress and were taught relaxation exercises. Two thirds of those in the stress management programme found the programme effective in relieving symptoms and experienced fewer attacks of less severity. This benefit was maintained for at least 12 months. Few of those given conventional management had any benefit. A stress management programme would appear to be of value for patients with irritable bowel syndrome.