What Does Evidence-Based Recovery Model Really Mean

“Evidence-based model” has become such a popular buzzword in the mental health community that it is often thrown around without any explanation as to what it means. While the name provides a clue, the details get often lost or go unexplained to the general community.

Read on to learn about the history and components of common evidence-based treatment models.


Evidence-based treatment practices originated long ago in the medical field but did not gain popularity until the term became widely used in the early 1990s. In the early 2000s, the development of treatment models based on evidence from scientific research expanded to many different fields, including mental health and substance abuse.

Generally, evidence-based practices incorporate

  • Evidence from research
  • Clinical expertise
  • The patient’s individual needs and preferences

This decision-making process provides a framework for clinicians to determine the best possible treatment model for each patient by conducting clinical assessments, referencing research and collaborating with the patient.

Evidence-Based Models in Practice

Evidence-based treatment models address such disorders as PTSD, anxiety, depression and substance abuse as well as co-occurring disorders. They are usually short-term interventions that run for a specified number of sessions or weeks.

Treatment can be done with individuals, families or groups, depending on the model. They can occur in different settings, such as an outpatient clinic, residential treatment facility, rehab or a patient’s home. Many can be used throughout the life span, while some need to be adapted for certain age groups.

Some common evidence-based models used with adults include

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Motivational Interviewing

Most evidence-based models require extensive training to properly implement specific interventions using different steps and tools. This allows practitioners to guide interventions in a consistent, systematic manner.

Common Components of Evidence-Based Models

While all models vary, there are core components that can be found in many. Because they are time-limited, the models are designed to equip patients with the necessary skills to manage their wellness over time.


Clinicians present information relevant to the patients’ health issues, which allows for insight into triggers, warning signs and symptoms. The intent is for patients to gain self-awareness, identify their needs and address problem areas.

Skills Training

Patients learn how to manage their symptoms using appropriate coping mechanisms and distress-tolerance skills. They practice these skills on a consistent basis during calm periods in order to be better prepared in the presence of triggers.

Maintenance and Relapse-Prevention

Once patients demonstrate consistent alleviation from symptoms, they prepare for termination. Patients at this time should have the skills to independently manage their symptoms over time.


While evidence-based models are backed by research, not every treatment method is going to work for everyone. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all treatment, but there are many options available, especially as more models emerge. Therefore, it is important to consult a professional, such as a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist who provides clinical services.

How Common Is Dual Diagnosis?

Addiction and substance abuse don’t exist in a vacuum. It often develops hand-in-hand with other mental health conditions, an occurrence called ‘dual diagnosis’. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, roughly 33 percent of individuals suffering from mental illness also succumb to substance abuse. Among those suffering with a severe mental illness, this figure increases closer to 50 percent.

According to NAMI, Dual diagnoses are more common among men than women; and it’s more likely to occur in drug users than in alcohol abusers—53 percent to 37 percent to be exact. However, no definitive pattern exists for which generally occurs first.

Types of Dual Diagnosis

Some addictions tend to develop from mental illnesses.

  • Schizophrenia is most frequently associated with marijuana addiction, but the American Journal of Psychiatry reports that approximately 50 percent of those suffering from this disorder abuse some sort of substance.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can result in opioid addiction. Opioids tend to produce a strong sense of well-being, counteracting symptoms associated with PTSD, such as anxiety. PTSD is often the result of a traumatic incident that may have resulted in painful physical injuries for which prescription opioid painkillers were prescribed, instigating the addiction.
  • Alcoholism occurs frequently in patients suffering from Anti-Social Personality Disorder. Binge drinkers and alcohol abusers are 21 times more likely to suffer from ASPD than those who do not drink to excess.
  • Heroin addiction is believed to eventually result in depression by interfering with certain portions of the brain. A downward spiral often occurs when individuals become physically incapable of experiencing pleasure without taking the drug.

Treatment of Co-Occurring Illnesses

Co-occurring mental illnesses and addiction disorders exist codependent of one another. When one gets worse or goes untreated, the other typically gets worse too. This often necessitates specialized treatment called ‘integrated intervention’. The course of integrated treatment may not be the same for every individual as it depends on the substance being abused as well as the co-occurring mental illness. Some common approaches exist, however; and both the addiction and the mental health disorder must be addressed.

  • Detoxification typically occurs first and is often addressed in an inpatient program so that the patient can be closely monitored and withdrawal symptoms can be addressed. It may include gradually weaning the patient off the use of the substance in question.
  • Rehabilitation often follows in an inpatient facility, or in a group home for those whose dual diagnoses do not require 24/7 care.
  • Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, may involve ongoing treatment to deal with the underlying mental health issue and to address recurring patterns that could potentially lead to relapse. Mental health medications often play a role as well.

Know that if you are suffering from both a mental disorder and substance abuse, you are certainly not alone. A qualified facility and trained medical professionals can treat both problems successfully.


Understanding the Importance of Integrated Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

Psychiatric health and addiction used to be considered separate entities. Today, addiction specialists understand the importance of integrated treatment for dual diagnosis, creating an all-inclusive recovery plan for the client.

Anxiety attacks, depressive episodes, mood swings, and psychotic breaks are all symptoms of underlying psychological issues that may exacerbate an already-existing addiction to food, drugs, alcohol, or sex.

Integrated Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

The importance of integrated treatment for dual diagnosis exists in a treatment plan that simultaneously addresses parallel co-occurring issues, which mutually affect a client’s recovery process. While it may be helpful to attend 12-step meetings on a regular basis and achieve total abstinence from all addictive substances, it is absolutely vital to assess, evaluate, and treat additional mental health issues, which may challenge a client’s commitment to ongoing recovery.

In a startling statistic from 2002, The Office of Applied Studies, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that only 12% of the 4 million American adults who suffered from a dual diagnosis actually received treatment for both conditions. Fortunately, there are treatment centers that understand the importance of treating dual diagnosis clients properly, to encourage successful recovery from both addiction and suffering from negative mental health setbacks.

By offering parallel treatment for both addiction and a diagnosis, the client can address the symptoms of each disorder successfully, achieving an overall well-balanced lifestyle. Meeting with a specialist who can appropriately diagnose a client who also suffers from mental health challenges is a vital tool in the ongoing recovery process. By addressing and acknowledging the existence of a co-occurring mental health issue, the client is then able to begin a treatment plan that encourages his or her comfort and safety.

Eating disorders, mood disorders, social phobias, and PTSD are among the additional challenges participants in recovery must face as they embark on the courageous journey of recovery. By addressing these additional issues in the hands of a compassionate clinical physician, the success rate of the client increases exponentially. Mental health professionals understand the importance of addressing both challenges to create a complete picture of recovery for the client.

Alternative treatments are available to address the specific symptoms of depression, anxiety, and mood and personality disorders. Singularly, these diagnoses can pose a serious threat to an individual if they go untreated; simultaneously, they can be deadly. The treatment of dual diagnosis patients and both of their diagnoses can dramatically increase the odds of a successful and happy road to mental health and recovery from addiction.

What Is Dual Diagnosis?

When someone you know suffers from both an addiction and a mental health disorder, that condition is known as dual diagnosis. Many times those afflicted with a mental health issue will use drugs and alcohol to treat the symptoms of a mental health condition, whether it is depression, anxiety, or a mood disorder. Conversely, years of drug and alcohol abuse can contribute to the symptoms of a mental health disorder. These are two separate illnesses, which deserve individual treatment plans to create an integrated treatment plan for one person.

Fortunately, there is help. In today’s field of advanced psychotherapy and substance abuse treatment, the client has a much greater chance of achieving a holistically happy and healthy lifestyle, in the care of experienced health professionals.

Common Dual Diagnosis Conditions

Common co-occurring mental health conditions seen in clients today are: anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. These disorders can be debilitating, preventing addicts and alcoholics from wishing to seek outside help and escalating the effects of a co-occurring mental condition. Such conditions require specialized treatment in addition to recovery from drugs and alcohol.

Behavioral therapy, integrated group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, individual therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and medication therapy are all ways in which wellness practitioners may aid the client on his or her road to recovery. Licensed therapists and treatment specialists are trained to identify the key indicators of each condition in order to treat the complete picture of the individual. Furthermore, if a client is displeased with the side effects of certain medications, a trained psychiatrist is able to identify imbalances and assess which changes should be made to create the ideal conditions for the client.

Dual diagnosis deals with a special kind of client: one who requires additional attention to parts of the mind, body, and spirit afflicted with both addiction and mental health condition symptoms. In creating a safe, protected environment for the client, where he or she can experience the consistency and calm required to address such issues and challenges, recovery is possible.

Detox from all drugs and alcohol and continued attendance of regular group therapy meetings specifically geared to treat addiction, along with individualized therapy and possible medication or alternative therapies, will aid in the long-term recovery of the client. Trained professionals understand that it is absolutely vital to address and treat underlying mental health conditions for a client with dual diagnosis. In the care of expert professionals in the field of recovery, the possibility of a happy, fulfilled life is greater than ever before.