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What are Evidence Based Practices and Why Do they Matter?


Although there is nuance to each individual’s journey of healing, there are certain techniques, approaches, and/or modalities that a treatment team can utilize to help guide their client on their path. Evidence based practices are techniques that have been used, researched and proven to be effective in the majority of cases.

These concepts and ideas can get very confusing to anyone that does not deal with them on a regular basis. We could simply list all the evidence based practices that we know of and have researched ourselves, but how is that helpful to someone looking to find help for their loved one, or themselves? Instead we would like to highlight that getting lost in the minutiae of what it is and how it applies does not necessarily move someone towards healing. Building trust with your treatment team and trusting the process is where the focus should be for the client and invested family members.

Our counselors have gone through the training, have real world experience, and understand the process of recovery.  At this point in their careers they naturally work in these evidence based practices in their conversations with clients. The natural tendencies of our counselors to utilize these practices helps to strengthen relationships and reinforce the client to maintain their trajectory on their path of healing.

Our programming also incorporates evidence based practices into the daily life of the clients.  With intentionality and focus we are able to present healthy pathways to clients through their group process and individual treatment plans. Our three phase approach helps to build the skills of our clients as they move towards a healthy, sober, independent life.

What is psychoeducation and how does it relate to evidence based practices?

A large part of anyone’s journey, in treatment or not, is to have a continuous mindset of growth. This growth mindset will help to overcome obstacles and understand your current location and intended journey along your personal path. In order to foster this mindset we offer psychoeducation to our clients and their families. Understanding oneself, one’s patterns, one’s  tendencies, and one’s shortcomings will help us to draft our plan to move through the difficulties of life.

This process also helps to bridge that gap that is all too often missed from someone struggling with chemical dependency or mental health issues. That gap is the one we all fear when in the throws of our despair, and that gap feels like a giant chasm between ourselves and the person right next to us. How could they possibly know what it feels like? My situation is so unique that no one could possibly understand. With psychoeducation we can bring peoples experiences closer to one another and reduce the feeling of isolation and desolation.

Through a broader understanding of humans, their nature and tendencies, and more specifically the anatomy of substance use disorder, depression, anxiety and the correlation between them, our clients can begin to understand that they are not alone, there is a way out, and that their next series of choices will impact their long term success. Once we have brought our clients and their families awareness to these concepts we can all begin interacting and communicating with the same language. For instance, we can begin to minimize the shame message when all parties are focused on the precise behavior and not the person(s) who perpetrated the act. Or we can begin to see how the family dynamic falls into the drama triangle, allowing for a cleaner transition into the empowerment dynamic. The process of psychoeducation invites all involved to step into the growth mindset. We like to offer the information and then guide each client through the process of seeing how this information is evident in their own life. The idea isn’t to have an immediate understanding and intervention of each piece of ourselves we find an issue with, but to slowly and intentionally move towards recognition and sustainable adjustment.

The practices we use and their intended outcome

Quick disclaimer on this next section. This is not an exhaustive list, nor does it represent every approach the Recovery Academy takes to address the individual needs of our clients. The intent is to highlight how we can support our clients through their process using evidence based practices that have a high level of efficacy.

Addressing Motivation

Whether you are new to treatment or you have cycled through a time or two, motivation is a constant factor in long term recovery. The ability to be and stay motivated in life in general is difficult. This is only made more difficult when we pile on the hindrance of substance use and mental health disorders.

At the Recovery Academy we are routinely evaluating our clients’ motivation level. This can be done by observing behavior, tracking engagement in programming, and through their counseling sessions. We understand that motivation levels are bound to change due to a multitude of variables, so it is our responsibility to consistently address the factors that may be inhibiting motivation for each of our clients. We can’t make every triggering factor disappear so that is when we can step in and…

Teach coping skills

This process is where Recovery Academy shines. Because of our highly supportive environment we are able to step into those situations where a client may revert to past destructive behaviors and instead remind them of the coping skills they are developing on their journey of healing.

It’s not always easy to be mindful enough to exercise these new skills early on in treatment. Rewiring the brain to behave in a different way is no easy feat. But having someone there to guide you through the process and remind you of what is effective helps that neurogenesis process to take hold, creating new pathways and patterns.

Some of the common techniques we propose are:

  • Take a breath to pause and reflect
  • Exercise
  • Journal
  • Talk to someone in your support network
  • Attend a meeting
  • Stick to your routine
  • Utilize a healthy replacement behavior
  • Practice mindfulness and meditation

Again, this is not an exhaustive list, but the intent is to highlight that cravings and triggers happen, and there are better ways to respond instead of falling into destructive patterns and habits.

Building resilience around painful emotions

When we speak about coping skills we must also begin to discuss the necessary skills to build resilience around our painful emotions. Our emotional state is in a constant state of flux. Although this knowledge does nothing to assuage the painful emotions we inevitably encounter, it does help to push us in the direction of understanding. We can begin to understand that the way we feel right now is not how we will feel forever. Our understanding can grow into a place where we understand that not every emotion deserves or needs a reaction.

When we encounter these painful emotions we can begin to alter our response to them. We can use our coping skills to be in awareness of our emotions, but not be consumed by them. The more we begin to interact with our emotions in a healthy way, the more resilience we can build. Working through this process with our treatment team helps our clients to understand that resilience is not just a test of will. It’s not something you just attain overnight. It is built from the ground up with every encounter you have.

Decreasing isolation and increasing social supports

The Recovery Academy prides itself on being a community based program. We like to get our clients engaged and involved in our internal community and in the broader recovery community that the Twin Cities region has to offer. Our programming also limits the amount of isolation one can have, ensuring that each client gets multiple touch points with staff daily.

The support built into the program starts with our life/recovery coaches that are engaged on a ground level with our clients. These coaches along with our 24/7 staff help to provide opportunities for clients to engage in a social structure within the internal community on a daily basis. They are also encouraged to seek additional social support outside of the program by attending meetings, community events, and/or providing community service.

Maintaining compliance with recommended medications

All too often someone that has been placed on medication to help manage their day to day lives gets to a place where they feel great and no longer feel they need their medications. This often ends up with a relapse or decline in functioning. This can also happen due to poor executive functioning skills and medication management proves to be too difficult.

When either of these scenarios happens we have to start all over again in an attempt to get to a place of stabilization. This is where our support team comes into play to help guide the client through the process of creating systems that work. They may not get it on the first try, but taking the time to find the obstacles and find creative solutions is what sets our team apart.

Enhancing self-efficacy

Although this practice starts on day one, the reality is we don’t see this piece until our work is nearly complete. Oftentimes clients will gain all the necessary skills to move into a life of independence, but want to continue with a safety net. This is understandable and there is a point where that would only be detrimental to the client.

We only want what is best for each client, which is why we use our 3 phase approach. The client gets to practice what life is like with a healthy outlook and routine, gaining more responsibility and independence along the way. Each phase is designed to guide the client towards living a healthy life where they feel confident in their decision making and responses to the outside world.

Phase one really implements the structure necessary to feel comfortable on the path of healing. Phase two incorporates a higher level of responsibility, being school or work, with a higher level of independence. This is where clients can really weed through what works and what doesn’t as they experiment with routines, behaviors, and habits outside the confines of a highly structured environment. The final phase helps our clients to encounter situations they may have not in the previous phases and see how they navigate it without the treatment team right there to step in.


Understanding what evidence based practices are and how they are utilized is an important step on the path to a healthy life. Finding what works for an individual and how to work within the nuance of each practice is a skill that our team has mastered. As we continue to build rapport with our clients and find the approaches that work, the process becomes more fluid for everyone involved. 

All of these evidence based practices are important to the long term care of each client, but they are only a piece of the treatment pie. When taking a holistic approach to treatment we must also incorporate other dimensions into the day to day routine of our clients. We want to treat the whole person, and further.

We have to look at and take into consideration limitations and capacities in a variety of areas:

  • Occupational
  • Spiritual
  • Intellectual
  • Attitudes and beliefs
  • Biological
  • Cultural
  • Executive functioning
  • And more

With evidence based practices we can have a clear schematic of the beginning of our process, which will lay the foundation to continue the growth process in each aspect of our daily lives.

To further understand how the Recovery Academy guides their clients to a healthy life please reach out to one of our caring and compassionate counselors at 339-222-2287.

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