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This long-term programme of work has led to the development of the three most effective treatments for adults with eating disorders, all of which have been endorsed by NICE.

The first is a cognitive behavioural treatment for bulimia nervosa, a disorder that was originally described as "intractable". This treatment has been extensively studied and was the first psychological treatment ever to be endorsed by NICE (NICE, 2004).

The second is an "enhanced" form of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT-E) designed to be more potent than the bulimia nervosa treatment and transdiagnostic in its clinical range.  CBT-E has been shown to be effective in the treatment of all forms of eating disorder seen in adults. It is strongly endorsed by the latest NICE guidelines (NICE, 2017).

The third is a novel form of treatment delivery termed "guided self-help". It was developed in the mid-1990s as a first-line approach to the treatment of recurrent binge eating. It has proved to be very effective in the treatment of binge eating disorder and moderately effective as a treatment for bulimia nervosa. The NICE guidelines recommend guided self-help as the initial intervention for both disorders (NICE, 2017).

Christopher Fairburn

FMedSci, FRCPsych.

Wellcome Principal Research Fellow

  • Professor of Psychiatry, University of Oxford
  • Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust

My primary research interest is in the development and evaluation of psychological treatments.  This work has mainly embraced:

  • the treatment of eating disorders
  • the use of digital technology to deliver and disseminate psychological interventions.


I trained in medicine at Oxford and in psychiatry at Edinburgh. I returned to Oxford in 1979. I was awarded a Wellcome Senior Lectureship in 1984 which was converted into a Wellcome Principal Research Fellowship in 1996. I have been been a governor of Wellcome and I was a founder trustee of the mental health research charity MQ.  I have twice been a Fellow at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.  I have received the AT Beck Prize from the Academy of Cognitive Therapy and the Lifetime Achievement and Outstanding Researcher Awards from the Academy of Eating Disorders.  

RESEARCH ON THE use of DIgital technology to deliver and disSEMINATe PSYCHOLOGICAL TREATMENTS

This work has two main strands. The first has been on the development of a scalable way of training therapists to deliver complex psychological treatments. The new method, termed “web-based training,” has been shown to be acceptable and effective.  It provides a means of simultaneously training large numbers of geographically dispersed therapists at low cost. 

The second strand is concerned with the conversion of therapist-delivered psychological treatments into autonomous digital interventions for delivery direct to the public This work is at an early stage.  A digital version of the leading psychological treatment for eating disorders is currently undergoing preliminary testing. The treatment is termed CBTe. 

Aligned to the work on dissemination is a longstanding collaboration with Professor Vikram Patel and his colleagues in India.  Recently they have developed two psychological treatments, one for depression and the other for harmful drinking.  Both are delivered by lay counsellors and both have proved remarkably effective given their low intensity.

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