Evidence-Based Treatment

Effective, evidence-based treatment is important. However, when researching your mental health treatment options, the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming. At times, it can be difficult to tell what treatment will best suit your needs and life experiences. In addition, it isn’t always clear which treatments are most effective. As public awareness of mental health increases, so do the number of apparent treatments for mental health conditions. However, many of these treatments are ineffective, and some are outright harmful.

In order to ensure you receive the best possible care, it is important to check to see if a treatment option you are researching is evidence-based. If a type of treatment is evidence-based, that means it’s been shown to work.

What Does ‘Evidence-Based’ Mean?

Many types of treatment exist. In fact, anyone can think of an idea of how to treat a condition and claim it is a treatment. However, not all treatments work. Even among treatments that do work, some may be more effective than others. How can we tell which treatments are going to treat a condition most effectively?


Over time, experts have developed guidelines to separate effective treatments from ineffective ones. They’ve also established how to decide which of the treatments that work are the most effective. The main way that experts do that is with something called a “clinical study.”

Clinical Studies

Clinical studies are a type of study run by experts. In a clinical study, a scientist or scientists propose a theory as to the way something works, called a hypothesis. Then, they create a way to measure whether or not that idea is true. To do this, they recruit a group of people (called participants) to help them test their idea. 

There are generally two types of clinical studies: clinical trials, where scientists pick the treatment each participant receives, and observational studies, where scientists do not decide which treatment a participant observes. Both are used to study mental health treatment.

Clinical studies are performed according to rigorous standards set by established healthcare organizations. When the results of these studies are published, they are typically “peer-reviewed,” meaning that a series of anonymous experts review and provide feedback, and ask questions before the results can be published. Studies that aren’t peer-reviewed are rare, and journals that do peer-review publicize that. 

When a type of treatment is called “evidence-based,” that means that it has been through numerous clinical studies and has been shown repeatedly to work for the conditions it treats. Evidence-based treatments also typically have a significant history, meaning they have been used for many years.

How to Recognize Evidence-Based Treatments

In order to make it easier for the average person to determine if a treatment is effective, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides information about evidence-based practices in one of its programs, the Evidence-Based Practices Resource Center. By accessing their website, you can filter results by mental health condition or treatment type. Additionally, you can directly search for your area of interest or scroll through their resource documents.

If a treatment is not listed on SAMHSA’s list, that does not guarantee that it is not effective. This is especially true for newer treatment methods, which may not have had the time or resources to have been proven effective yet. If you are considering a new treatment method, speak to your healthcare team.

What to Watch Out For

Not all treatment is created equal. In addition to ensuring your treatment is evidence-based, it’s strongly encouraged to keep an eye out for potential red flags in treatment. Some of these include:

  • Exclusive use of anecdotes and personal stories as evidence
  • Use of odd, sometimes “scientific”-sounding jargon
  • Claims that are too good to be true (apparent cure-all or instant fix)
  • Implications that you need to “believe” in the treatment for it to work
  • Misinterpretation of one or two unrelated scientific articles as “evidence”

If you are not certain if a treatment is effective, speak to your healthcare team. 

Our Evidence-Based Treatment Options

At Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention, located in the College Area of San Diego, California, we believe that all people deserve access to quality, evidence-based treatment. At our crisis stabilization unit (CSU), we offer a variety of treatment services, including:

  • Crisis stabilization
  • Medication management
  • Whole-person wellness
  • Recovery and safety planning
  • Support services
  • Family and community support
  • Nutrition and recreation services

All of our therapy options are evidence-based. Learn more about our services below.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is an evidence-based therapy option that teaches mindfulness and goal-setting aligned with one’s core values. In ACT programs, clients learn effective strategies to process and grow from past experiences. ACT has been clinically shown to be effective in treating mental health concerns. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely-practiced therapy modality, typically used for anxiety, depression, or related mental health concerns. In CBT groups, clients learn how to recognize and interrupt potentially harmful thought patterns, creating a healthier foundation for processing trauma. 

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of CBT designed for people who experience intense emotions. It is especially effective in treating mood disorders and suicidal ideation. 

CBT and DBT are both evidence-based treatments. 

Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention is a crisis support center for people with psychiatric conditions. Located in the College Area of San Diego, California, we provide a variety of evidence-based treatment options to help you recover. To learn more about our services, call (619) 457-4613.