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Nine Features of the Best Mental Health Practices

What makes a program effective or evidence-based? Researchers at the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center offer their criteria and test them against an established, recognized program.

Dartmouth PRC-Hazelden logoIn a recent paper published in Research on Social Work Practice, members of the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center tackle the question "What characterizes the ideal mental health intervention?" Many have proposed criteria for evidence-based practices, but the proposed requirements often do not reflect the practical factors or policy goals that might be necessary to meet in implementing a practice.

In this paper, PRC faculty Gary Bond, Robert Drake, and Deborah Becker reviewed the literature on evidence-based practices and proposed their own real-world criteria and then tested them against an actual, widely acknowledged evidence-based practice, supported employment.

According to Bond and his co-authors, the study upholds the merits of the proposed nine key features of an effective mental health practice. We list the criteria below and invite your perspectives.

The authors maintain that the ideal mental health intervention should

1. Be Well Defined

A practice should be easy to replicate and specific about the techniques or interventions used. It should include a manual and specific guidelines on staffing, program logistics, and implementation.

2. Reflect Client Goals

Those practicing integrated treatment recognize the value of shared decision making. More important, this practice can help address the problem of client dropout rates and disengagement with treatment.

3. Be Consistent with Societal Goals

Helping people manage their illnesses not only improves their quality of life but benefits the community by returning them to their work, a home, and a valuable role within their family and network of friends and peers.

4. Demonstrate Effectiveness

Programs should be supported by the research. These studies should use a rigorous research design, include control groups, and be run in a real-world setting. Their findings should be replicated.

The ideal mental health program should also

5. Produce Minimal Side Effects

6. Have Positive Long-Term Outcomes

7. Incur Reasonable Costs

8. Be Relatively Easy to Implement

9. Be Adaptable to Diverse Communities and Client Subgroups

The abstract of the article, "Beyond Evidence-Based Practice: Nine Ideal Features of a Mental Health Intervention," is in the online archive of Research on Social Work Practice. Comments or questions about the study can be sent to Gary Bond at the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center.

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