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What is Evidence-based Treatment?

Created on August 5, 2017. Last updated on June 10th, 2021 at 10:20 am

Not all mental health treatments for young people are equally helpful.  Some therapies may work better than others.

Mental health care providers (psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists) use different treatment approaches to help children and adolescents who are experiencing mental health problems. Some treatment approaches have a strong backing in scientific evidence and other treatments have less evidence supporting them. Therapists who use treatments based on science engage in what is called “evidence-based practice” (EBP). If the treatments they use have scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of the treatments, they are called evidence-based treatments (EBTs).

EBTs are listed as ‘best practice’ and ‘preferred’ approaches for mental health symptom treatment by both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association.

What are EBTs for Children and Adolescents?

As explained above, EBTs are treatments that are based on scientific evidence. Research studies have shown that some treatments work better than others for specific problems that children and adolescents experience. In this research, treatments are compared in large studies called clinical trials that involve dozens of children in each study. These children all have a similar main problem, like depression or delinquent behavior. The researchers randomly assign the children to receive Treatment A or Treatment B (for example). If Treatment A helps children more than Treatment B, then Treatment A gains in importance as a potential EBT. As more studies support the EBT Treatment A, its usefulness and the conditions under which it is most appropriate grows. It should be noted that often there are more than one EBT for a given problem or set of problems.

Psychologists and other mental health care professionals who use EBTs are dedicated to offering the best level of care available by constantly evaluating and comparing the effects of various treatments for a variety of children’s and adolescents’ mental health problems.

Partner Sites:

Evidence-based Services Committee of Hawaii