For teens who suffer from a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, you probably want to know that the treatment you receive is going to work. You likely don’t want to go to a therapist or psychologist who is using a form of treatment that is hardly known with little success rates.
And parents, this is likely true for you too! There’s a good chance that when you take your son or daughter to receive mental health services, you want to know that the services he or she receives is well documented, highly researched, and has proven to be successful across many cases.
Evidence based practices are those that are based on research studies that are quantitative in nature and have a narrow set of criteria, which lead to clear evidence of the effectiveness of the practice. The use of evidence-based practices was introduced in 1992 in the field of medicine and has spread to other disciplines including psychology.
Evidence practices are particularly important for teens with severe cases of depression, anxiety, or another mental illness. For instance, there are some cases in which depressed or anxious teens, who have been appropriately diagnosed and who are receiving treatment, don’t respond to treatment and are not improving. When this is the case, it’s important to use psychological interventions that have proven to work in the past so that other factors that might inhibit treatment can be identified.
For example, treatment that is considered to be evidence based for depression includes the use of medication such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, also known as SSRI’s. SSRI’s increase the levels of serotonin, which can ease depressive symptoms and they have fewer and milder symptoms than other anti-depressants. In addition to medication is the use of psychotherapy, particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT identifies negative and distorted thinking patterns. This successful form of therapy emphasizes the link between thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and more importantly, it attempts to identify the way that certain thoughts contribute to the unique problems of an adolescent’s life. Interpersonal Therapy used with medication is also seen as evidenced based and has shown a faster rate of response than medication used with CBT. Interpersonal Therapy is a form of therapy that invites teens to regain control of their mood and functioning by exploring in more detail the nature of his or her relationships. IPT is based upon the ideas that regardless of genetics, depression develops within the context of relationships.
The evidence based treatment methods discussed above can also be applied to anxiety, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder. In addition to CBT for bipolar disorder, another evidence-based treatment is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). DBT is a form of behavioral therapy that teaches adolescents the skills they need to move closer to their life goals and assists them in integrating those skills into everyday life. The therapy is a compassionate form of treatment method that brings meaning and purpose into a teen’s life. The many dysfunctional symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder make it difficult for a teen to function normally in school, home, and work. DBT is meant to address those issues by teaching skills to cope with them and replace the self-defeating, dysfunctional coping mechanisms.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), research indicates that all lifetime cases of mental illness, such as those discussed here, begin at the age of 14. Evidence points to the presence of a psychological illness in these teens even before symptoms develop. Therefore, it’s important that the treatment of these illnesses is rooted in research, a history of success, and strong effective measures. For this reason, more and more therapists and mental health professionals are turning to evidence-based therapies and interventions as a means to treat adolescents.
By Robert Hunt
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