What is Evidence-Based Treatment and Why Does It Work for Teens?

by Polaris Teen Center | Sep 11, 2017 | Mental Health, Resources, Treatment

evidence based teen treatment


Psychology is a field of study that is constantly changing. Over the past century, the relentless research efforts of psychologists around the world have transformed the discipline from one that was once largely based on subjective analytics to one that now derives its legitimacy from empirical science. What is most important in the effort to find the best available treatment options, is the quality of the evidence that supports them.

What Are Evidence-based practices?

Evidence-based practices, or EBPs, are approaches to psychological treatment that are based off of research, professional expertise, outcome statistics, and feedback from consumers. EBPs, in general, are those that have been involved in numerous large-scale clinical trials, where the outcomes of hundreds (or thousands) of patients have been studied.  Evidence-based treatments are also typically studied through their comparison to other types of psychological intervention. Essentially, EBPs are backed by scientific evidence, for the purpose of achieving the best possible treatment outcomes or results.

Amongst the most common evidence-based practices are those that involve cognitive and behavioral approaches to treatment, namely cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).  Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been widely studied, and proven effective for a wide range of symptoms in teens and adolescents.

Types of Evidence Based Treatments:

Behavioral approaches
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) – focused on the belief that learning processes play a vital role in the development of behavioral problems (i.e. – drug use), CBT teaches teens to develop healthy, effective coping strategies for unhealthy urges and actions. CBT often assigns therapeutic homework to participants, and is conducted in both individual and group settings.
  • Motivational-enhancement therapy (MET) – effective for teens who are uncertain about participating in treatment, or working on their struggles, MET seeks to increase a patient’s internal motivation to engage in therapy.
  • 12-step therapy – used in the case of substance abuse and addiction, 12-step therapy encourages abstinence through a supportive group setting.
Family based approaches
  • Brief strategic family therapy (BSFT) – based on the family systems approach to therapy, BSFT conceptualizes the teen’s issue or struggle as a product of the entire family’s unhealthy interactions and/or behaviors.
  • Multisystemic therapy (MST) – this therapy focuses on the teens views and core beliefs in conjunction and comparison to those held by the family, friends, peers, and other members of the community. Therapeutic sessions vary in terms of who is involved.  At times, the whole family meets, while periodically, the mental health professional will meet with the teen independently, and/or the primary care giver(s) independently.
  • Multidimensional family therapy (MDFT) – this approach to family therapy is typically used with teens struggling with substance abuse and/or behavioral issues. The goal is to build a strong support system around the teen, involving both family and community systems (i.e. – school, juvenile justice system).

Although the above-mentioned evidence-based practices by no means make up a complete list of treatments effective for teens, they are some of the most popular.

If your teen is in need of treatment for mental health issues or substance abuse, contact Polaris at 1-844-836-0222 to find out more.


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Polaris Teen Center is a residential treatment facility for teens and adolescents suffering from severe mental health disorders. Our highly accredited facility is fully licensed and certified in Trauma Informed Care and is a part of the Behavioral Health Association of Providers (formerly AATA).