Evolution of the Research


The timeline below shows the temporal sequence of events in my 40-year programme of research on psychological treatments and their dissemination. With the advantage of hindsight, it is clear that there are four overlapping phases:

1977 to 2000 - Devising and evaluating a cognitive behavioural treatment for bulimia nervosa

1990 to 1998 - Devising and testing scalable ways of delivering the treatment

1998 to 2015 - Devising and evaluating a transdiagnostic treatment for the eating disorders (CBT-E)

2012 to present - Devising and testing new ways of disseminating psychological treatments in general


1977  Young women with a novel form of eating disorder start presenting for treatment in Edinburgh

1977  I start to devise a novel cognitive behavioural treatment for this eating disorder (bulimia nervosa)

1980  [I return to Oxford to pursue research on CBT-BN]

1981  [I am awarded MRC funding for an initial trial of CBT-BN: CBT vs STP]

1981  CBT-BN case series published (Fairburn, 1981)

1984  [I am awarded the top level of Wellcome personal support ... intermittently renewed until 2017]

1985  Second trial of CBT-BN starts: CBT vs BT vs IPT

1986  First CBT-BN trial published (Fairburn et al, 1986)

1989  [I hold a one-year Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford]

1990  I propose a "stepped care" strategy for managing BN (Fairburn and Peveler, 1990)

1991  Second CBT-BN trial published (Fairburn et al, 1991, 1993)

1992  Stanford-Columbia-Oxford CBT-BN trial starts: CBT vs IPT

1993  Binge Eating: Nature, Assessment and Treatment published

1995  Overcoming Binge Eating published (Fairburn, 1995)

1996  Pilot primary care study of guided self-help for BN published (Waller et al, 1996)

1998  Trial of guided self-help for binge eating disorder published (Carter and Fairburn, 1998)


1998  Begin to develop and refine CBT-E

1999  [Second CASBS fellowship at Stanford]

2000  Stanford-Columbia-Oxford CBT-BN trial published (Agras et al, 2000)

2001  First CBT-E trial starts

2003  CBT-E theory paper published (Fairburn et al, 2003)

2008  CBT and Eating Disorders published (Fairburn, 2008)

2009  First CBT-E trial published (Fairburn et al, 2009)

2010  Second CBT-E trial starts: CBT-E vs IPT

2012  [Start of work with Vikram Patel on the dissemination of psychological treatments in general]

2013  CBT-E-based version of Overcoming Binge Eating published (Fairburn, 2013)

2014  Fairburn and Patel paper on dissemination published (Fairburn and Patel, 2014)





2015  Second CBT-E trial published (Fairburn et al, 2015)

2015  Start of Pride trial evaluating a two-step intervention for adolescents in India with mental disorders

2016  Development of a web-based method for training therapists to deliver psychological treatments

2017  Trial of a simple psychological treatment for depression published (Patel et al, 2017)


2017  Digital technology and psychological treatment paper published (Fairburn and Patel, 2017)


2017  Two studies of web-based training published (Fairburn et al, 2017; Cooper et al, 2017)




2017  Beginning of the Essence project on the digital training of lay health workers in India

2017 [Completion of my Wellcome Principal Research Fellowship]

2019  Start of the Empower initiative on the global dissemination of psychological treatments

2019  Festschrift in Oxford to celebrate the completion of my 40-year research programme

2019  Festschrift in Oxford

Looking Forwards

Looking forwards, I plan to focus on three objectives (in random order): first, facilitating the work of Vikram Patel and others on the global dissemination of effective psychological treatments; second, helping my colleagues Rebecca Murphy and Riccardo Dalle Grave take forward the work on CBT-E; and third, reserving time to "get a life"!

Fairburn et al 2003.PNG
Trial 2 results paper title.PNG
Stepped care paper title.PNG
Fairburn 1981 CBT-BN title.jpg
Trial 1 results paper title.PNG
OBE nhs.jpg
Binge Eating book cover.jpeg
Waller et al study.png
Carter and Fairburn 1998 title.PNG
Agras et al 2000 - Stanford-Columbia stu
CBT-E trial 1 paper title.PNG
Fairburn and Patel 2014.png
Fairburn et al 2017 - CBT-E second RCT.p
Patel et al 2015 - HAP paper in Lancet.p
Cooper et al 2017 - training ROC.PNG
Web-training POC paper.PNG
Fairburn and Patel 2017 - Digital tech p
Fest group.jpg
Whole group v2.jpg
Me - good life.jpg