Objectives Internationally, family doctors seeking to enhance their skills in evidence-based mental health treatment are attending brief training workshops, despite clear evidence in the literature that short-term, massed formats are not likely to improve skills in this complex area. Reviews of the educational literature suggest that an optimal model of training would incorporate distributed practice techniques; repeated practice over a lengthy time period, small-group interactive learning, mentoring relationships, skills-based training and an ongoing discussion of actual patients. This study investigates the potential role of group-based training incorporating multiple aspects of good pedagogy for training doctors in basic competencies in brief cognitive behaviour therapy (BCBT). Methods Six groups of family doctors (n = 32) completed eight 2-hour sessions of BCBT group training over a 6-month period. A baseline control design was utilised with pre- and post-training measures of doctors' BCBT skills, knowledge and engagement in BCBT treatment. Results Family doctors' knowledge, skills in and actual use of BCBT with patients improved significantly over the course of training compared with the control period. Conclusions This research demonstrates preliminary support for the efficacy of an empirically derived group training model for family doctors. Brief CBT group-based training could prove to be an effective and viable model for future doctor training.