One of the biggest challenges facing mental health and addiction service providers today is the implementation of evidence-based practice within individual programs. This post highlights a few lessons Enviros has learned over the past few years. As Enviros has set out on a journey of first establishing our own evidence base, to then using it to improve our practice.

This post is not going to dive into the hot topic of “what is evidence based?”, or “who’s evidence?” or any of the concerns surrounding this topic. For the purpose of this post, “evidence-based” refers to Enviros generated outcomes and evaluation data, from our clients in our contexts.

Lesson #1: Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.

It is great to be excited about outcomes, evaluation and using the newest, flashiest instrument with your clients. Too often we go straight from an idea into implementation without taking the time to ensure the tools we are using are intentionally designed and align with the program’s objectives and theoretical frameworks. Ever had to use an evaluation tool because someone told you to? How did it turn out?

Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe. – Abe Lincoln

Lesson #2: With, not to.

Outcome and evaluation conversations have been known to strike fear into the hearts of the most seasoned youth worker, counselor or administrator. “Not again!” they cry. Perhaps they will have a flashback to the time a university student inflicted their thesis project, creating a burden of paperwork with little tangible benefit. This causes big delays between data collection and the publication of the report. At Enviros, we focus on engaging with staff and clients in the design of the evaluation and the real-time use of the data.

Lesson #3: It’s the questions you ask, not the answers you get.

One of the biggest lessons Enviros has learned is by asking the client for feedback on a regular basis changes our practice. Frontline practitioners become more curious about the client experience, and less certain about the efficacy of their interventions. This curiosity manifests into a more client-centered, relational approach to the work. According to Miller et al’s ongoing research, common therapeutic factors that most impact the change process for clients are; goal consensus and collaboration, therapeutic alliance, empathy, therapist genuineness and positive regard. Asking your clients how they’re doing, whether through formal or informal instruments and then using that information (evidence) to improve your practice helps build all of those factors.

I admire those who seek the truth. I avoid those who find it. – French motto

Interested in learning more about outcomes and evaluation at Enviros? Check out these great podcasts:

Liam Law on being a Youth and Family Support Worker

Dr. Lee Gillis on Routine Outcome Monitoring

Kelly Waters Radcliffe, R. Psych at Enviros Base Camp