The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines evidence-based practices, also known as EBPs, as treatments that have been researched academically or scientifically, been proven effective, and replicated by more than one investigation or study. This model integrates medically researched evidence with individual patient values and the clinical experience of the provider. Evidence-based treatment practices are meant to make treatment more effective for more people by using scientifically proven methods and research.
Most agree that there are six steps for the provider in the evidence-based practice treatment process:
- Assess the patient and discover their clinical needs; ask the right questions.
- Acquire relevant research and look into all investigations or studies.
- Appraise the applicability, validity and quality of the knowledge to the patient’s case.
- Discuss results of research with client and determine integration with their individual values, needs and goals.
- Apply the knowledge by collaboratively developing a shared plan of action between the provider and patient.
- Implement the plan.
Some professionals also include a seventh step in which the clinician evaluates their own performance on each case-by-case basis.
Types of Evidence-Based Practices
As research develops and more studies are conducted, more and more evidence-based practices are formed.
Below are a few EBP interventions that have been proven effective for different types of disorders:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is useful for many disorders, including addiction and mental health disorders
- Exposure therapy for anxiety, phobias and PTSD
- Functional family therapy for adolescents with problems such as substance abuse
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy is meant for those suffering from multiple disorders
- Motivational Interviewing works to help certain cases overcome substance abuse
- Assertive community treatment is specialized care for severe mental health disorders and illnesses
One of the most noted EBPs is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is useful in treating a wide variety of mental health disorders from anxiety and depression to eating disorders and mood disorders as well as addiction and substance abuse. NAMI explains CBT as a therapy that helps individuals discover the relationships that exists between self-destructive behaviors and negative thoughts and feelings. This type of psychotherapy is an active intervention that seeks to positively influence brain chemistry by changing the way you think.
With extensive scientific research to back it up, CBT has a proven effective evidence-based practice track record. A review was done on several studies of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on many different disorders. Eleven of the studies directly compared CBT and other methods, and out of that group seven of them showed more favorable responses to CBT. These types of reviews strengthen the evidence base of CBT.
Benefits of EBP
Evidence-based practices generally work because they have been proven. Studies have already been conducted most likely in large-scale clinical trials that involve thousands of patients. Scientific evidence is plentiful and risk factors have already been assessed. The results of extensive research are usually used to produce a plan that is replicable and standardized. Many EBPs have thorough written instructions and the necessary tools needed to implement them. EBP treatments may also be less expensive than traditional therapy as well.
Clinicians providing evidence-based practices are typically highly and specially trained and use tools and therapies to help individuals become more self-reliant and improve their quality of life. The Journal of Psychiatric Services published that evidence-based practices work above and beyond traditional health care, encouraging patients to improve their lifestyles, relationships and become independent.
Recovering addicts, for example, are encouraged to seek peer and family support, learn their social and environmental triggers, and work to avoid relapse. Along with detoxification and sometimes medication, group and individual therapy is employed.The focus for addicts is on lifestyle changes and behavioral modification and not just detox.
The evidence-based treatment method attempts to help recovering addicts improve in all aspects of their lives and not just treat the initial addiction. Many addicts also suffer from a mental health disorder, and there are EBPs, like Dialectical Behavior Therapy, that work to treat both the disorder and the addiction simultaneously, which seem to have the best results for the long term.
Differences Between EBP and Other Treatments
More traditional therapies usually rely more heavily on the relationship between therapist and patient and less on scientific evidence of proven practices. Many clinicians prefer to use their years of practice and knowledge to the newer evidence-based methods. Medication and psychodynamic therapy, which focuses on the patient’s unconscious processes, are common to this style.
Traditional therapy is often thought of as talk therapy where the patient and therapist build a rapport, and the therapist works to uncover any underlying issues related to the substance abuse. Medication is also commonly prescribed in traditional therapy practices, which may be effective but can come with other consequences and side effects.
Some arguments exist that claim evidence-based treatment is too standardized and lacks individuality. Still others argue that the studies are not broad enough, and certain cultural or ethnic groups may not fit the mold.
The Los Angeles Times talks of the debate raging in the medical field between science-based and personal experience-based therapies, heralding research showing that evidence-based practices tend to work better and faster than traditional models, with patients responding to treatment in 12 to 16 sessions. Being faster also means that it can be more cost-effective for the end user.
Best Treatment Options
Overall, many agree that a combination of traditional methods and evidence-based practices are most likely going to produce the best results. Using medical and scientific knowledge and research, personal experience, and treating each patient as an individual person are thought to produce the best lasting results. Medical knowledge continues to grow and expand, and the best health care providers understand and embrace this.
At Foundations Recovery Network, we understand the importance of new and innovative treatment as well as traditional models. The dual diagnosis model treat each individual as a whole person and acknowledges that each individual requires specific and customized treatment. Call 844-768-1248 today to learn more about how evidence-based treatment practices can help you or your loved one to start on the path to recovery.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.