What is EBP?

Evidence-based practice (EBP) has been a hot topic for the past few years in music therapy. If you have heard of EBP but don’t know exactly what it means, this post will give you the basics.

The concept of EBP isn’t a new one – its been around since the early 1900s, but became a popular term in the 1990s. Due to the popularity of the term, there are several misconceptions about EBP.

First, EBP is not discipline specific or different dependent on your practice methodology. We cannot create our own definition of EBP, one already exists. A commonly-accepted definition is:

“Evidence based medicine [practice] is the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients. The practice of evidence based medicine means integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research.” (Sackett, D.L., et al. (1996). British Medical Journal, p. 71)

As stated above, EBP is the culmination of systematic research evidence, clinical expertise, and patient preference. By equally considering all of these areas, the clinician strives to provide the most efficient and effective treatment for the client.

EBP is an ongoing process of treatment refinement, not an end goal. No matter how much you read in the literature today, there will be new information tomorrow. Therefore, we must continually seek information and integrate appropriate information into our practice, all while considering our clinical knowledge and expertise. This isn’t an “easy” process – it’s a necessary one that becomes easier with practice.

Perhaps the most daunting part of EBP is finding and reading the literature. There are some wonderful sources available to clinicians from google scholar to pubmed. Although you may only be able to access the abstract of an article, this is a starting place. In many cases you can access full journal articles, where you can read for congruence and protocol information. If you are unsure of how to read research, you may consider a CMTE or graduate course to further your knowledge base.

The bottom-line is that EBP is using knowledge to inform practice. We are not attempting to “prove” what we already do works – this is against the basic elements of EBP. Rather, we continually evolve our practice based on the three elements of EBP: client preference, clinical expertise, and systematic research.

You can find links to EBP tutorials under the “resources” tab.

I also highly recommend Rubin (2008) Practitioner’s Guide to Using Research for Evidence-Based Practice