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Last Updated on : 19th Sep, 2012

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What is Evidence-Based Practice (EBP)?

Many health care fields have adopted the core principles of evidence-based practice (EBP), an approach to patient care that encourages clinicians to consider and synthesize empirical evidence, clinical expertise, and patient values in implementing treatments. These principles of evidence-based practice also are very relevant to the practice of clinical psychology with children and adolescents, including the provision of psychological assessment and treatment. Psychologists are uniquely skilled in conducting rigorous clinical research, and a large empirical base is available 1) to develop evidence-based assessment measures and treatments and 2) to evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of clinical practice techniques.

A goal of this website is to help keep the public and professionals apprised about the current state of the scientific evidence—and to provide timely updates. The hope is that by providing information about what treatments work, families and therapists alike will be better informed and thus better prepared to have conversations about the care of children and adolescents needing behavioral health services.

On this page, you will learn:

A. Why is EBP important in the practice of clinical psychology with children and adolescents?
B. What are Evidence-Based Treatments?

For an in-depth description of EBP, please read this article from the Behavior Therapist, and also visit this NIH Sponsored Site.

A. Why is EBP important in the practice of clinical psychology with children and adolescents?

Psychologists are ethically bound to “strive to benefit those with whom they work” (also known as beneficence) and to "do no harm" (also known as non-maleficence). These principles are important in understanding EBP for behavioral health problems.

When scientific evidence exists demonstrating that a specific assessment or treatment approach works well for a child or adolescent with a particular clinical presentation, it is important to discuss the approach and/or provide the approach as an option to the client and his/her caregiver. Such a discussion may include a review of the approach's applicability to this client, as well as its strengths and limitations.

As noted, the American Psychological Association (APA) has defined EBP as the synthesis of empirical evidence, clinical expertise, and patient values in implementing treatments. In many cases, a therapist who adopts an EBP approach will use what are called evidence-based treatments (EBTs). These EBTs are specific treatment approaches, sometimes contained in a treatment manual or book, that specifies the ingredients of the treatment. These EBTs are considered evidence-based because they have been supported by scientific research.  

There are a number of advantages for families to ask for EBTs and for therapists to use them. A few are listed here.

  1. EBTs have been shown to reduce symptoms and improve functioning. Other treatments do not have that track record.
  2. Studies have shown that EBTs work in a relatively short time span and many appear to lead to long-standing improvements.
  3. EBTs are recognized as an important ingredient in behavioral health care by professional organizations and increasingly, insurance companies and other payers are reluctant to pay for services without an evidence base.

B. What are Evidence-Based Treatments?

In recent years, there has been an increase in the requirement for accountability in many aspects of our lives in the United States. Behavioral health care is no exception. As health care costs have risen, the need to justify those expenditures has become critical. One important way to justify the use of behavioral health treatment is to demonstrate how treatment helps reduce suffering and improve functioning. This demonstration requires scientific research and more than thirty years of research on treatments for children’s mental health problems has led to hundreds of studies of hundreds of different treatments. In an effort to organize these studies, scientists have created a system for categorizing treatments based on the strength of evidence supporting them—that is, how much evidence is there that a particular treatment works. This work has led to a variety of lists of evidence-based treatments (EBTs; also called empirically supported treatments, empirically-validated treatments).

This website is designed to be a clearinghouse of information for therapists and families interested in learning the latest about treatment for children’s mental health problems. As such, the website includes lists of what Division 53 calls EBTs. These lists are designed to support decision making for therapists and families alike.

For further resources and recommended readings about EBP, please visit the website, Evidence-Based Behavioral Practice.


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