“Evidence-based” Treatment: What Does It Mean?

When you're looking
for medical or mental health treatment, there are
lots of choices… and lots of claims
about what works. There's advice from
friends and family, news headlines,
and the internet. The truth is, not all
treatments work equally well. So how do you know what's best? "Evidence-based"
treatments give you the best chance for recovery. There are different perspectives
on exactly what it takes for a treatment to be
considered evidence-based. In general, the scientific
community looks at three things: the number of research studies,
the quality of those studies, and whether experts agree
the treatment works. Let's learn more. Evidence-based treatments
have been tested in multiple research studies. One study isn't enough to really
know whether a treatment works. Our confidence grows when
studies are repeated and researchers find
the same outcome. This is especially true when
treatments have been studied by different researchers in
different settings — all with similar results. The quality of those
studies is important, too. In high quality studies, the
people in the study are the kind of people who would use
the treatment being tested. In addition, the treatment being
tested is compared to another treatment or to no treatment. And participants are
randomly assigned — by chance — to the
treatment groups. That way, we know the groups
are the same at the start, and that improvement during the
study is due to the treatment. Another characteristic of
evidence-based treatments is expert agreement that
they work. If a study is published
in a scientific journal, it means reviewers examined how
the study was done and agree with the conclusions. There are also organizations —
like the Institute of Medicine, American Psychiatric
Association, and Department of Veterans
Affairs — that review studies and publish recommendations
identifying evidence-based treatments. The stronger the recommendation
that a treatment is effective, the more confidence you can
have that the treatment has good outcomes. So, when you're searching
for a treatment, look for the term
"evidence-based." When your medical or mental
health care provider offers a treatment, ask about the
research that supports it. If the treatment
isn't evidence-based, ask why it's being recommended. For most people, evidence-based
treatments offer the best chance for recovery. For information about
evidence-based psychotherapy and medication for posttraumatic
stress disorder — or PTSD — visit the National Center
for PTSD website at: www.ptsd.va.gov.

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