Evidence-Based Practice—Ready, or Not?

Over the past few years, local mental health and substance abuse treatment providers have increasingly been encouraged by community stakeholders to adopt evidence-based or evidence-informed practices (EBPs). Like most change, this movement toward implementation of research-supported interventions creates both opportunity and challenge for local service providers.

EBPs are practices that have undergone scientific evaluation to document their effectiveness.

If agencies are to use evidence-based practices, then they must first become educated consumers of information about such practices and programs. There are various ways that agencies can learn about specific practices for their area of interest, and in many cases, the supporting research has already been well documented along with the strengths and limitations of the intervention.

EBP with a good fit
It is critical for agencies to focus on the fit of an intervention to their needs. This involves understanding the consumer and their needs, and having realistic expectations about what the service delivery entails and the planned outcome. In other words, EBPs have to be a good fit for an agency on both a clinical and a practical level.

Agencies also need to select an intervention that is a good fit from the position of culturally responsive practice.

  • Was the EBP developed or has it been tested for a population that is similar to yours?
  • If not, is the developer of the intervention willing to work with your agency to help modify the program to meet your needs and monitor how the implementation is working with this new population?

One of the most common mistakes I have seen agencies make is choosing an intervention based on research evidence that was conducted with a completely different population than the one the agency plans to serve. Just because an intervention is called “evidence-based” does not mean it is the right fit for your agency.

A comprehensive planning process, where agencies review different interventions and the fit of these to their service capacity and target population, will pay dividends in the future.

Organizational planning
Just as choosing the right intervention is important, so is agency readiness. It’s important to know what the motivation behind the desire to implement this practice is, and whether or not service delivery practitioners are open to the intervention.

  • How would implementation impact the structure and day to day activities of your agency?
  • Does your agency have any past history with implementing new practices, and if so, what can you learn from those experiences?

When implementing an EBP, it’s also important to build in evaluation of the implementation, so that you can assess whether this new service is working the way you intended. Ultimately, the intervention must be sustainable if it is working; by conducting an evaluation, your agency will then be armed with information about local effectiveness and will have information that can assist with modifications for your setting, if necessary.

Health Forward presented detailed information on the selection and use of EBPs at the 2013 Mental Health Pre-Proposal Conference. Please select the documents under “2013 Mental Health Pre-Proposal Conference and Forum” in our archives for full information. There will be three documents relating to EBPs.

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