Evidence-based treatment (EBT) is a treatment method that employs hard evidence from exhaustive research as its base (1). It does this to find what means of treating patients have been repeatedly proven to be most effective.
The Problem EBT Solves
One of the issues that mental health and addiction treatments face is that there are many variables. In standard scientific and medical practices, clinically-controlled environments are used to determine whether or not a treatment works. If a person has a traditional disease, they are given a particular type of treatment – a medication, for example – and then monitored to establish whether or not that treatment is effective. This is much more complicated to accomplish with mental health.
Because a person’s mental health is tied to everything they do, as well as what they think, it can be difficult to verify whether or not a particular treatment is actually the cause of a patient’s improvement. A patient could be given a medication, but at the same time engage in a spiritual pursuit that they find helpful. They may have a change in circumstance – such as moving to a new location, beginning a new relationship or taking a new job – which is a major factor in improving their mental health. In those cases, it’s difficult to establish the effectiveness of the medication.
It is precisely this challenge that evidence-based treatment seeks to overcome.
What Makes an Evidence-Based Treatment
The goal of EBT is to eliminate as many variables as possible. This makes it easier to identify what treatments are actually effective at managing a particular condition. The goal is to remove outside influences to show a direct correlation between a treatment and improvement (2). EBT uses several factors to help find the best treatments to assist a patient:
• Scientific, academic and clinical testing – Scientific tests executed in a controlled environment to ascertain the effectiveness of a treatment.
• Peer-reviewed journals – Scientific journals written about treatments and reviewed by experts to determine how thorough the research behind each treatment is.
• Authoritative documentation – Documentation of an EBT must come from a reputable source and be vetted by repeated research that supports the effectiveness of the treatment.
• Consensus reached by experts – Leading authorities in a particular field must agree that there’s sufficient evidence to support the use of a treatment in order for it to be incorporated into evidence-based practice.
Some Types of EBT
First, a treatment undergoes the rigorous testing necessary to be called evidence-based. Then it is then implemented to aid patients. Some of the most common evidence-based treatments are:
• Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
• Medicines approved by the FDA
• Exposure Therapy
• Functional Family Therapy
• Motivational Interviewing
• Assertive Community Treatment
CBT is one of the best known and most commonly used EBT practices. It has been comprehensively tested and repeatedly shown to assist those with a wide range of psychological conditions (3).
Why EBT is Important
When selecting a treatment program for any mental health issue, it’s helpful to include some evidence-based therapies. EBT’s have the most scientific proof that they work for the most people under the most conditions. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has an extensive database of resources for EBT (4). These do not need to be the only methods used in a patient’s program, but they have the highest rate of success. Being informed about EBT’s can greatly improve the chance of recovery.