Evidence-Based Practice(s) vs. Evidence-Based Practice

The terms “evidence-based practice” and “evidence-based practices” are ubiquitous but often misused. Many (ourselves included) did not realize the important difference between “practice” and “practices”.

Evidence-based Practices are therapies or programs that have been proven efficacious through research. The majority of addiction treatment providers use some form or forms of evidence-based practices including CBT, 12-Step facilitation, EMDR, motivational interviewing, and more. These are the bread-and-butter therapies utilized by clinicians throughout the field.

Evidence-based Practice is the process of conducting research and appraising findings to inform clinical decision making. One definition of evidence-based practice from the literature is “… The systematic search for, and appraisal of, best evidence in order to make clinical decisions that might require changes in the current practice, while taking into account the individual needs of the patient.”1

An evidence-based practice can use evidence-based practices. But using evidence-based practices does not alone make a provider an evidence-based practice.

The difference is important. Professionals and prospective patients are likely to prefer programs that have been proven effective. They should understand that just because a a program uses “evidence-based practices” does not in and of itself mean that the program has been shown to be effective–it simply means that these programs utilize therapies that have been proven elsewhere. On the other hand, programs using research to enable “evidence-based practice” are qualifying and quantifying the efficacy of their own program.

Using “evidence-based practices” means use of proven tools. Being an “evidence-based practice” means your program is a proven tool.

This distinction is particularly important to programs attempting to differentiate the quality and efficacy of its therapeutic approaches. While most programs can promote the use of evidence-based practices, true differentiation comes from using evidence-based practice to substantiate that a program’s unique modes, therapies, milieu, therapeutic relationships and other factors are creating efficacious outcomes. This can only come from conducting research to support the idea that a ‘program’, rather than its practices are effective.



1. Essential differences between research and evidence-based practice, Carnwell, Pos, Nurse Researcher (through 2013); Winter 2000; 8, 2; Nursing & Allied Health Database pg. 55