How to Find the Right Evidence-based Practice Using EBP Clearinghouses

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By Patrick S. Tennant, Ph.D., LMFT

Important To Know:

  • EBP clearinghouses and databases exist to help researchers and practitioners sort through the evidence associated with a variety of programs and practices.
  • The best EBP clearinghouses report on degrees of evidence, rather than the false-dichotomy of ‘EBP-or-not’ designations.
  • The Results First Clearinghouse Database by The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative is a great place to start.

Databases of evidence-based programs and practices (jointly referred to here as EBPs) classify the quality of evidence supporting those EBPs and are intended to be accessible for non-researchers. These databases have been utilized to inform practitioners in social services and healthcare for over two decades. More recently, these databases have been transformed into web-based clearinghouses that are designed to be user-friendly and informative for those interested in employing EBPs but unsure about where to start. Understanding what clearinghouses are available and how to best use them can be of great benefit to direct practitioners who are interested in research-supported practices and interventions, and to directors trying to initiate a new program or update an existing one.

WHY DO IT:

As reviewed elsewhere in this issue, there are many potential benefits to understanding and using evidence-based programs and practices. There are also drawbacks to rigid structures and the false dichotomy of ‘EBP-or-not’ designations. The best EBP clearinghouses are designed to address those drawbacks by displaying a wide breadth of programs and indicating the degree of research supporting each EBP. Placing EBP designations along a continuum more accurately reflects the true nature of the process of developing evidence for a program or practice. That continuum of evidence approach, and the ability to cross-reference the degree of support for a wide-variety of programs and practices by target population, program focus and program features, make evidence-based clearinghouses immensely valuable for anyone in search of an intervention.

HOW TO DO IT:

A practitioner’s implementation of an EBP is fundamentally contingent on their ability to source the necessary information and critically compare available alternatives. National social service associations have recognized that need and called for the infrastructure necessary to promote that ability. A variety of public and private organizations have taken up that call and created curated databases of information about programs, practices and the evidence supporting them. Many of these databases now exist, varying in their focus (i.e., some are targeted, others are more general), review procedures, user-experience, how often they are updated, and so on. Certainly, there are benefits to the presence of many clearinghouses, but the amount of choices can also be overwhelming and can stall well-intentioned searchers. A great place to start is the Results First Clearinghouse Database, a project of The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative.

http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/multimedia/data-visualizations/2015/results-first-clearinghouse-database

While not technically responsible for reviewing programs itself, it functions as a clearinghouse of clearinghouses, compiling an enormous amount of information into a single, comparable scale so that users can effectively sort through the findings of eight evidence-based clearinghouses all at the same time. More information on other high-quality databases and clearinghouses can be found at:

www.campbellcollaboration.org

http://evidencebasedprograms.org/

WHAT TO DO WITH THE INFORMATION:

There are many things to consider when selecting and implementing an EBP. Clearinghouses and databases of EBP support should be utilized to make the process more effective and efficient. There may also be reciprocal benefit to the research findings available to the clearinghouses if more practitioners and program directors select EBPs for implementation, and thus create additional opportunities for evaluation of their effectiveness. Though federal government support for these clearinghouses may be waning, a number of high-quality alternatives exist and can be utilized in the absence of the SAMSHA National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices. Several additional factors outside the purview of the clearinghouses must also be considered. For example, the importance of fit with the population, the intended outcomes and decisions about fidelity versus adaptation (addressed elsewhere in this issue) to the empirically supported practices and programs is worth exploring. A variety of implementation strategies also exist and should be reviewed during the EBP selection process.

ADDITIONAL READING:

For practitioners hoping to learn more about the EBP Process, here is a useful online training resource: Evidence-Based Behavioral Practice: https://ebbp.org/

Drisko, J.W. & Grady, M.D. (2015). Evidence-based practice in social work: A contemporary perspective. Journal of Clinical Social Work, 43, 274-282.

Evidence-based practice in psychology. (2006). American Psychologist, 61(4), 271-285. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.61.4.271.

Haynes, R., Deverwaux, P. & Guyatt, G. (2002). Clinical expertise in the era of evidence based medicine and patient choice. Evidence-based Medicine, 7, 36-38.

National Association of Social Workers. (2010). Evidence-based practice for social workers. Washington DC: author.

Parrish, D. (2018). Evidence-based practice: A common definition matters. Journal of Social Work Education.

Spring, B. & Hitchcock, K. (2009) Evidence-based practice in psychology. In I.B. Weiner & W.E. Craighead (Eds.) Corsini’s Encyclopedia of Psychology, 4th edition (pp. 603-607). New York:Wiley

 

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