Eva Surawy Stepney

BA (Hons), MA

Department of History

Research student

Photo of Eva Surawy Stepney

Thesis title: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and the foundations of ‘evidence-based’ practice in British Psychology, 1948-1980.




Thesis abstract:

In contemporary mental-health care in Britain, Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM)- centred on large clinical trials- is the gold standard for psychological and psychiatric practice. However, the EBM paradigm is facing growing criticism for its reliance on a ‘reductive’ model of mind. The central aim of my research is to historically evaluate the foundations (and implications) of this evidence-based research paradigm in British psychology through an analysis of the formation of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) at London’s Institute of Psychiatry, 1948-1980. I will focus on publications of the experimental psychologist Stanley Rachman demonstrating how OCD in its contemporary form emerged from what counted as ‘valid’ psychological ‘evidence’ at different points in time- and the implications this had for conceptions of mental distress more broadly.

  • PhD History, University of Sheffield, 2020 - present 
  • MA History of Medicine, Birkbeck University of London, 2019
  • BA (Hons) History, University of Sheffield, 2017
Publications and Conferences

'OCD in Society: Making Sense of a Hidden Illness', Conference Review, The Polyphony. 


‘Obstinate Material’: Surgical Intervention and Obsessional Thoughts, The Polyphony.