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7 Mental Health Evidence-Based Practices in Nursing

Close-up image of a nurse holding a patient's hand

Persons who are diagnosed with behavioral health disorders unfortunately are often stereotyped, or perceived in a negative fashion by some in the general population. As a result, many mental health patients struggle to deal with their condition, and instead may choose to deny their diagnoses for fear of being judged by society. [1] This may often cause behavioral health patients to hesitate to pursue elements that comprise a quality of life, such as employment, comfortable housing, healthy personal relationships, and taking advantage of behavioral health services. In light of these perceptions and situations, most individuals believe that behavioral health treatments help patients.

Leaders in Evidence-Based Mental Health Services

A position statement published by Mental Health America titled: Evidenced-Based Healthcare, highlights the organization’s commitment to the speedy discovery of solutions for patients who are diagnosed with behavioral health and substance abuse conditions. [2] The organization supports the development, evaluation, and dissemination of evidenced-based knowledge to support the recovery of behavioral health patients.

In league with this vision, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the US Department of Human Services (SAMHSA), has pledged to promote evidence-based practice in finding solutions for behavioral health and substance abuse treatments. The following entries highlight seven mental health practices that align with SAMHSA.

1. Program for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT)

Assertive community treatment aims to provide behavioral health services in the community setting. The frameworks serve conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. PACT, services seek to maintain outpatient treatments and ensure regular, ongoing therapies. Using the framework, various health care practitioners provide services such as assistance with activities of daily living (ADL), help managing family responsibilities, and support in securing important needs such as food and housing.

2. Integrated Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

With this framework, a multidisciplinary team provides dual treatments for patients diagnosed with both behavioral health and substance abuse disorders. By combining the two services, patients usually have a better chance of making a full, long-term recovery. Practitioners provide patients with services and resources such as case management, outreach, housing, and employment assistance. The framework aims to aid the high-risk dual diagnoses population who are more likely to relapse and resume drug use, experience financial troubles, suffer from poor health, and/or face homelessness.

3. Illness Management and Recovery (IMR)

Illness management and recovery is an evidence-based, psychiatric treatment framework designed to allow patients to participate proactively in their own recoveries. During ongoing weekly sessions, behavioral health practitioners help patients develop treatment plans and identify goals. This may encompass teaching recovery methodologies, behavioral health facts, and stress management techniques. Practitioners also teach patients how to build and maintain social support networks, reduce the chances of resuming drug use, and use prescribed medications effectively. The teaching techniques of this framework might also include cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational sessions.

4. Permanent Supportive Housing

Permanent supportive housing is a program that provides behavioral health patients with assistance in finding independent housing. A few of the items that define permanent supportive housing is it relates to this program are as follows:
• Tenants must have a legal, binding lease.
• Program inclusion does not hinge on participation in behavioral health services.
• There are no housing rules that would not apply to the rules established at tenancies for renters who do not have behavioral health conditions.

Program participants must also have unimpeded opportunities to engage with non-program participants who are living in the same community or structure. Additionally, participants must receive services that change (increase or decrease) as their behavioral health needs change.

5. Medication Treatment, Evaluation and Management (MedTEAM)

Medication treatment, evaluation and management involves the systematic, evidence-based application of prescription behavioral health medications. The purpose of the framework is to improve quality of life for patients who are suffering with severe behavioral health conditions. To apply this framework, the prescribing physician must know the best and most current prescriptions available, use those prescriptions in the clinical environment, apply this knowledge to cases on an individual basis, and include the patient in the planning and decision-making process.

6. The Cochrane Collaboration

The Cochrane Organization is an international association dedicated to helping individuals make informed health care decision with evidence-base information. [3] The Collaborative encompasses 15,000 participants based in over 100 nations. The group publishes its reviews in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR). Cochrane Collaboration reviews are a vital resource for health care professionals who have especially high volumes of information to evaluate, have limited time, and who manage life or death caseloads. The reviews assess and condense the most relevant, current research based on empirical evidence; validate findings; and present new evidence-based clinical information in a systematic format.

7. The Child Trends Organization

Legislators ratified the Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows act as part of the 21st Century Cures act in December 2016. This legislation earmarked $5 million for each year from 2018 through 2022 for the treatment of postpartum depression. [4] Currently, it is not standard practice to screen mothers for the condition, even though research shows that 18 – 25 percent of mothers with postpartum depression or psychosis go undiagnosed.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services urges nurses to encourage mothers to undergo postpartum depression screening after giving birth. Health advocates, such as the Child Trends organization, believe that a nationwide postpartum screening network would improve health outcomes for mothers afflicted with the condition.

The Role of Doctors of Nursing Practice (DNPs) and its Future

Due to the emerging role of DNPs (Doctors of Nursing Practice) as primary care providers, the board of directors of the American Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is taking a close look at the educational avenues available to practitioner candidates. [5] Through the DNP Task Force, the organization disseminates information to promote the role of Doctor of Nursing Practice. As the health care field evolves, these highly skilled practitioners will serve as critical links to treatment for an underserved population that requires behavioral health services.
In the United States, more Doctor of Nursing Practice programs are emerging to fill the anticipated shortage of health care talent. The AACN is an excellent resource for future DNPs to navigate their way toward an advanced nursing degree. The nation needs these professionals to fill the service gaps faced by underserved populations in settings such as rural communities, schools, prisons, and urgent care facilities.

Learn More

Earning an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) puts MSN-credentialed nurses like you at the forefront of the industry — prepared for leadership, nurse education, patient care, and to shape future policies and procedures in health care.

Recommended Readings:

Best Practices to Promote Cultural Awareness
How Nurse Practitioners Can Become Community Advocates


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
[2] Mental Health America
[3] Systematic Reviews of Interventions
[4] Child Trends
[5] American Association of Colleges of Nursing