Research digest: Associations between evidence-based practice and mental health outcomes in child and adolescent mental health services

Jessica Deighton, Rachel Argent, Davide de Francesco, Julian Edbrooke-Childs, Jenna Jacob, Isobel Fleming, Tamsin Ford, Miranda Wolpert

Published in: Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry (June 2015).

Evidence-based practice (EBP) treatments (a combination of evidence and practitioner knowledge) were focused on for child and adolescent emotional and conduct difficulties.
Both parents and children aged 11 or over used the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) to rate emotional or conduct difficulties on a 25-item scale.

Key finding:
Based on children’s reports, evidence-based treatment was associated with more improvement in emotional symptoms than children receiving a non-evidence-based treatment. However, the same effect was not evident from parents’ reports of symptoms.

Of the 490 children with emotional difficulties, 36.9% received Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). According to child self-reported data, children receiving CBT had significantly more pronounced reductions in emotional disorders over time.

The child self-report data provides some evidence that the added benefits of EBP may be observable in outcomes of those attending mental health services. Therefore, the findings of this article provide tentative support for evidence-based practice for the treatment of emotional disorders in routine care settings.
The findings also demonstrate an improvement in mental health difficulties over time from all children included, regardless of the use of EBP. Such findings are especially pertinent in a growing dialogue of EBP and in the context of national drives for evidence-based treatments in CAMHS.