by Tom Pyle
Evidence-Based Mental Health Practices: A Textbook, by Robert E. Drake, Matthew R. Merrens, and David W. Lynde. 494 pages. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005.
When serious mental illness strikes, it can devastate. Mental illness often shreds people’s lives. But there is hope. Fortunately, thanks to medical advances, today things are different for individuals with psychiatric disabilities. Instead of just the old-style, clinically pessimistic “medical model” with its objectifying focus on illness and symptomatology, there is now the possibility of a more holistic, individualized, person-centered concept of recovery. People with psychiatric disabilities today can and do get better. They can recover. While recovery, a uniquely personal journey, may not mean a return to life unblemished as before mental illness, it can and often does mean a new life of meaning and fulfillment attained through acceptance, determination, and perseverance–and, the application of evidence-based practices.
A significant factor in this new approach to recovery from mental illness has been the evolution of evidence-based practices in the mental health field. A significant aid for understanding these practices is Evidence-Based Mental Health Practices: A Textbook, edited by Robert E. Drake, Matthew R. Merrens, and David W. Lynde, all from the New Hampshire-Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center, one of the leading thought centers for psychiatric rehabilitation in the country today. Drake, Merrens, and Lynde have assembled twenty essays by themselves and other leading thinkers in their field covering the background, principles, implementation, and descriptions of the six now established evidence-based mental health practices. These are: assertive community treatment, integrated dual-disorder treatment, supported employment, illness management and recovery, family psychoeducation, and medications management.
Individuals with SMI and their loved ones, as well as providers and policy makers, all must learn more about what this thorough text explains. Combined with qualitative elements of consumer “lived-experience” and provider clinical judgment, these evidence-based practices provide the foundation for the science and application of psychiatric rehabilitation. Drake, Merrens, Lynde and their colleagues do a good job to explain it all in easily understandable language with helpful titles and margin guides. Although fully priced like the textbook that it is for use in academic programs, its important content is easily accessible by the average reader.
All who wish to have a fuller understanding of where mental health treatment is heading, and to help overcome the challenges still before it, will do well to read this book–and to become acquainted with its many contributors who are all important national proponents. Family members in particular should learn more about the evidence-based practices it describes so better to know about, participate in, and advocate for the improved care of their loved ones that is the promise, if not yet the full reality, of evidence-based mental health practices.