RESEARCH ON EATING DISORDERS
I founded the Centre for Research on Eating Disorders at Oxford (CREDO). Its work has led to the development of the three most effective treatments for adults with eating disorders.
The first is a cognitive behavioural treatment for bulimia nervosa (Fairburn, 1981), 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; 2017).
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. (Fairburn et al, 2003). 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 on eating disorders (NICE, 2017).
The third is a form of treatment delivery termed "guided self-help" and its use to treat recurrent binge eating (Carter and Fairburn, 1995). Guided self-help is designed to support the use of self-help programmes such as the one in my book Overcoming Binge Eating (Fairburn, 1995; 2013)*. It has proved to be highly effective in the treatment of binge eating disorder and moderately effective as a treatment for bulimia nervosa. Guided self-help as a method of treatment delivery is also now used in the treatment of many mental disorders.
*Overcoming Binge Eating (Fairburn, 2013) has been translated into Dutch, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish. A Simplified Chinese version is in preparation.
Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry
Psychological treatment development and evaluation; Digital technology; Global mental health
RESEARCH ON DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY AND THE GLOBAL DISSEMINATION OF PSYCHOLOGICAL TREATMENTS
I am interested in the use of digital technology to deliver and disseminate psychological treatments. This work has several strands, some of which are taking place in India.
First, at CREDO we have been interested in the conversion of therapist-delivered psychological treatments into autonomous digital interventions for delivery direct to the public (Fairburn and Patel, 2014, 2017). This work is at an early stage. A digital version of the leading psychological treatment for adults with eating disorders (CBT-E) is undergoing preliminary trials led by Dr Rebecca Murphy.
Second, we have developed a digital method for training therapists. This has been found to be popular and effective (Fairburn et al, 2017; Cooper et al, 2017). It provides a scalable means of simultaneously training large numbers of geographically dispersed therapists at low cost.
The other lines of work are being led by Professor Vikram Patel and his colleagues in India. The focus is on developing and evaluating scalable psychological treatments for common mental disorders, primarily for use in low-resource settings. These treatments are being delivered by lay counsellors and are proving to be remarkably effective (Patel et al, 2017; Nadkarni et al, 2017). We are currently developing a digital programme for training lay counsellors to deliver these interventions.
Another line of work is taking place in schools across Delhi. It is evaluating a novel stepped care intervention for teenagers with anxiety or depression.
MAIN RESEARCH INTERESTS
1. The development and evaluation of psychological treatments. This work has mainly focused on eating disorders although more recently it has extended to include the psychological treatment of anxiety and depression.
2. The use of digital technology to deliver and disseminate psychological treatments.
I trained in medicine at Oxford and in psychiatry at Edinburgh. I returned to Oxford in 1979 and have been engaged in full-time clinical research since 1981. Initially I was supported by the Medical Research Council, and then from 1984 to 2017 by the Wellcome Trust (Wellcome Senior Lectureship / Wellcome Principal Research Fellowship). .
I have been a governor of the Wellcome Trust 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.
The impact of digital technology on psychological treatments and their dissemination.
Fairburn CG. and Patel V., (2017), Behav Res Ther, 88, 19 - 25
The global dissemination of psychological treatments: a road map for research and practice.
Fairburn CG. and Patel V., (2014), Am J Psychiatry, 171, 495 - 498
A transdiagnostic comparison of enhanced cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT-E) and interpersonal psychotherapy in the treatment of eating disorders.
Fairburn CG. et al, (2015), Behav Res Ther, 70, 64 - 71
Transdiagnostic cognitive-behavioral therapy for patients with eating disorders: a two-site trial with 60-week follow-up.
Fairburn CG. et al, (2009), Am J Psychiatry, 166, 311 - 319
A randomized controlled trial of psychoanalytic psychotherapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy for bulimia nervosa.
Poulsen S. et al, (2014), Am J Psychiatry, 171, 109 - 116
The Healthy Activity Program (HAP), a lay counsellor-delivered brief psychological treatment for severe depression, in primary care in India: a randomised controlled trial.
Patel V. et al, (2017), Lancet, 389, 176 - 185
Comparative efficacy and acceptability of psychological interventions for the treatment of adult outpatients with anorexia nervosa: a systematic review and network meta-analysis.
Solmi M. et al, (2021), Lancet Psychiatry
Digital training for non-specialist health workers to deliver a brief psychological treatment for depression in India: Protocol for a three-arm randomized controlled trial.
Naslund JA. et al, (2021), Contemp Clin Trials
Risk Factors for Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa in Japan and Compared to a US Sample
Fairburn C. et al, (2020), International Journal of Eating Disorders