A workshop was held in Göteborg in June 2005 to discuss the place of valproate in treating adult epilepsies. Consensus positions were developed on the epilepsy types for which the drug is most suitable and the use of valproate in women of child-bearing age, in men and in patients with psychiatric comorbidity. Valproate was considered to be effective across a broad variety of epilepsy syndromes and seizure types and should be considered a suitable choice for first-line monotherapy of juvenile myoclonic epilepsy and other idiopathic generalized epilepsies. The use of valproate by women of child-bearing age is associated with potential harm to the foetus. A conservative approach to treatment is recommended in these patients whereby alternative antiepileptic drugs should be proposed to women planning pregnancies wherever satisfactory seizure control can be thereby maintained. In cases where valproate is used during pregnancy, either because the pregnancy was unplanned or because alternative treatment options of equivalent efficacy are unavailable, appropriate counselling, precautionary measures and monitoring should be provided. The evidence for an impact of valproate on male reproductive health is equivocal and considerations of male fertility should not be taken into account in deciding whether to prescribe valproate to men. Valproate can be proposed safely to patients with comorbid psychiatric disease or underlying psychiatric vulnerability.