List of Top Evidence-Based Practices in Mental Health

While new and innovative treatment methods can be valuable, a combination of evidence-based practices should serve as the backbone of your work with clients. Using approaches that have been put through rigorous testing ensures the effectiveness of therapy and the speed at which you can help your clients. 

There are many evidence-based practices to choose from, giving you the ability to tailor your treatment strategies to each client. This guide will explore six of the top evidence-based practices you can integrate into your mental health work. 

What is an Evidence-Based Practice?

Evidence-based treatment became a popular phrase in the 1990s as mental health came to value the use of the scientific method. While mental health traditionally had relied on subjective reports of clinical effectiveness, therapists and other mental health professionals began calling for rigorous studies to be done to determine the efficacy of treatments and how to best implement them. The practices that passed through rigorous testing processes and proven with clinical and scientific evidence came to be known as evidence-based. 

The high bar that was set with the focus on the scientific method has resulted in a dramatic increase in the effectiveness of therapy. We’re no longer relying on guesswork. Married with patient preferences and a therapist’s own experience, evidence-based practices are valuable tools that can be used with confidence. 

Evidence-based methods continually evolve as new discoveries are made and new treatment methods are tested. Existing therapies are improved and expanded upon, giving therapists a broader array of tools to hone treatment methods to maximize effectiveness.

Top Evidence-based Practices to Consider

Several treatment methods meet the definition of an evidence-based practice, having been proven to work in a variety of studies. It’s worth exploring each of these practices to see what you can glean for use in your own work. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy works by helping people identify and change complex and repetitive patterns of thinking that are ingrained over many years, affecting emotions and driving behavior. CBT is an intervention method that changes the way clients think about themselves and their surroundings. It enables clients to recognize their automatic thought patterns and gives them the skills they need to disrupt these harmful patterns. There is extensive evidence supporting CBT’s effectiveness and a long list of techniques that can be used with CBT

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that provides a greater focus on social and emotional elements. It was developed to create a way to help people with extreme or unstable emotions and harmful self-destructive behaviors. Using DBT, a therapist can help clients by teaching skills to cope with and change these unhealthy behaviors. DBT uses homework assignments, role-playing, and other techniques to help clients apply new ways of thinking and behaving to real-life situations.

Exposure Therapy

Also known as guided exposure therapy, this technique is used to help clients slowly and systematically face their fears as a way to reduce their anxiety. The therapist works with the client to slowly and incrementally expose them to increasing levels of what provokes their fear or anxiety while simultaneously sharing guidance and practicing skills to help them cope with the triggers. As clients practice these new skills, exposure therapy helps them become more confident so they feel less vulnerable with the trigger(s). Eventually, their anxiety reduces or goes away entirely.

Functional Family Therapy (FFT)

FFT is a short-term family-based prevention and intervention program that is conducted in clinic and home settings. It focuses on assessment and intervention both within and outside the family and is built on a foundation of respect and acceptance. Treatment is generally performed in phases focusing on interrupting current negative patterns, improving family interactions, strengthening the family framework, and sharing and practicing new skills for improved relations. 

Assertive Community Treatment (ACT)

The basis for assertive community treatment is the idea that people will receive the best care when their mental healthcare providers work together as a team. It’s a model that provides flexible treatment with a multidisciplinary approach to support clients in all aspects of their life. This includes therapy, social support, employment, medication, and/or housing. By providing such consistent and broad support, ACT has been shown to improve both outcomes and quality of life.

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a focused, directive, and client-centered counseling method that involves supporting a client’s motivation to change. It attempts to move a client from a state of uncertainty and indecision towards finding the motivation to make positive decisions to accomplish established goals. Motivational interviewing essentially creates behavior change by helping clients resolve ambivalence and explore opportunities. It is performed by supporting the client, determining the discrepancy between the client’s behavior and their current goals or values, and adjusting to the resistance (rather than trying to oppose it).

Evidence-based practices are invaluable assets in helping clients since you know that countless other people have benefited from them. Keep in mind that a combination of methods, both old and new, is likely to be most effective. But you can view evidence-based practices as the most reliable tools in your mental health toolbox.

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