When looking for treatment for a psychiatric disorder or addiction, you may have heard the term “evidence-based treatment” and wondered what that meant. It simply means that mental health professionals have performed trials and research on that particular method of treatment – such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – in order to determine its effectiveness for treating a specific disorder.
Evidence is gathered through a variety of methods, such as observation, analysis of data, and anecdotal evidence, in order to build a complete evidential picture of the treatment. There are also some commonly agreed upon levels of evidence that practitioners use:
- Level I: Evidence from true experimental designs. This usually involves evidence from randomized clinical trials in which practitioners can use in their own cases, if applicable.
- Level II: Evidence from quasi-experimental designs. This is a more focused level that involves specific and repetitive evidence from clinical trials and interventions.
- Level III: Evidence from expert consensus. This is evidence gathered from experts and official guidelines, and can be used in absence of clinical trial evidence.
- Level IV: Evidence from qualitative literature. This evidence can be gathered from various publications and reviews wherein authors have dealt with similar circumstances to the current patient.
- Level V: Anecdotal information. This evidence is gathered from various individuals involved with the patient, such as family or friends.
These levels of evidence aren’t used 100 percent of the time, but they’re commonly agreed upon enough to be of note. Evidence can come from a wide variety of places and can change from one patient to another, but how is evidence, once gathered, turned into practice?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) established the Clinical Trials Network in 1999 in order to establish a benchmark for the use of evidence-based treatment and practices. Since then, the practice of using evidence to help diagnose and treat patients has included the levels of evidence above, the expertise of the people providing treatment and those whom they refer to for research and guidance, and the preferences and study of the patient itself.
This has led to much more integrated, clinical, and scientific methods for which patients receive treatment. It also has the added benefit of making it easier for patients to use their health insurance benefits, if available, since health insurance companies usually require evidence of diagnosis and treatment to handle a claim properly.
Overall, evidence-based treatment is a precise method of zeroing in on the best course of action and treatment for a specific patient, and is used by the best and most qualified treatment centers not only to prescribe the best treatment for the patient, but to give everyone involved the peace of mind that the best course of action is being taken based on the latest available evidence.