Community-based mental health programs commonly utilize several evidence-based treatment approaches that have been shown to be effective through scientific research. Some of the most widely used evidence-based treatments in community mental healthcare include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, medication management, and illness management and recovery programs.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most established and well-researched evidence-based therapies used in community mental health. Numerous randomized controlled trials and meta-analyses have demonstrated the efficacy of CBT for conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, substance use disorders, and borderline personality disorder. CBT helps clients identify problematic thought patterns and behaviors associated with their mental health condition and teaches cognitive and behavioral strategies to change these unhelpful patterns. CBT is often delivered in short to medium term courses of 12-20 weekly sessions in individual or group formats in community settings.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is another evidence-based treatment frequently used in community programs, especially for clients struggling with borderline personality disorder and non-suicidal self-injury. DBT was originally developed by Marsha Linehan for the treatment of borderline personality disorder and incorporates mindfulness, distress tolerance, and emotion regulation skills training. Controlled trials have shown DBT to significantly reduce self-harming and suicidal behaviors. DBT is delivered in a structured skills training group format along with individual therapy sessions over a period of 6-12 months.
Medication management is an essential part of treatment for many clients with conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders. Community mental health programs often have psychiatric nurse practitioners or physicians who can prescribe and manage psychotropic medications as an evidence-based treatment approach. Appropriate medication use has been demonstrated to effectively treat and manage symptoms for many mental health diagnoses when combined with psychotherapy.
Illness management and recovery programs are another type of evidence-based group treatment used in community mental healthcare. Based on cognitive behavioral techniques, these programs teach concrete skills and strategies for managing the symptoms and functional impairments associated with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression. Topics often covered in these groups include understanding mental health conditions, medication education, coping with stress, relapse prevention, social skills training, and developing a personal recovery plan. Research confirms the effectiveness of these programs in reducing relapse and rehospitalization while improving functioning.
In addition to these core treatments, elements of other evidence-based approaches may also be incorporated into community mental health services. For example, group therapy based on acceptance and commitment therapy principles, family therapy for clients with serious mental illness, trauma-focused CBT for trauma-related disorders, and cognitive remediation programs for clients with cognitive impairments. Community mental health providers aim to offer clients a range of treatment options backed by scientific research, tailored to individual needs, and focused on symptom reduction as well as functional improvement in work, relationships, independent living, and overall quality of life. Ongoing evaluation of outcomes helps ensure these community programs continue delivering empirically-supported interventions to support mental health recovery.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, medication management, and illness management and recovery programs are some of the most widely adopted and rigorously evaluated evidence-based treatments utilized in community-based mental healthcare systems. The goal is to provide clients with services and interventions with demonstrated efficacy supported by controlled research trials and the best available scientific evidence. A combination of medications along with individual and group-based psychotherapy offered in community settings can effectively treat and manage many common mental health conditions.