Get access

Perspectives on evidence-based practice from consumers in the US public mental health system


Sandra J. Tanenbaum
College of Public Health
The Ohio State University
1841 Neil Ave
OH 43210


Rationale, aims and objectives  Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a matter of mental health policy in USA. Supporters find it useful in two forms, as generating a list of approved practices and as providing information to practitioners and consumers engaged in shared decision making. Almost nothing has been written about consumer perspectives on EBP. Given that they play an important role in the second form of EBP, this study explores the range and logic of these perspectives and of related views about the role of information in decision making.

Methods  Four focus groups (n = 38) were held in two settings in a Midwestern state in 2005. Thirty-nine face-to-face semi-structured interviews were conducted at three settings in 2006. Focus group members and interviewees were seriously mentally ill consumers in the public mental health system. Focus group sessions and interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. Thematic categories and subcategories were analysed.

Results  Focus group members and interviewees varied among themselves and between groups in their responses, but three major thematic categories emerged in both groups – consumers have positive and negative attitudes towards evidence; consumers seek and receive information from multiple sources; and consumers have competing and complementary principles for decision making. Interviews revealed that although real shared decision making is rare, consumers want to and may be involved in decisions about their care.

Conclusions  EBP per se has mostly by-passed consumers in the public mental health system, but at least some want to be better informed about and more involved in their care. Their misgivings about evidence are reasonable and resonate with the principles of the recovery movement.