On Monday, September 23rd, Claremont McKenna College’s Athenaeum and the Berger Institute welcomed Dr. Anna S. Lau in giving an eye-opening, evening presentation on the research-to-practice gap for evidence-based practice in mental health. Dr. Lau is a child clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. In her presentation, Dr. Lau focused on the current views of evidence-based practice in mental health, the trouble with getting evidence-based research into practice while serving diverse families, and studies on how evidence-based practices can be adapted to be more culturally responsive.
“Effect sizes fall when evidence-based practices move from research to practice settings,” states Dr. Lau. She shares that many of these studies are from a specific sample of people from university settings who are somewhat similar. These researched, evidence-based practices, while very effective with the university samples, may not fare as well with the varying and more complex needs of clients from the larger community. Many practitioners in response may either adapt the evidence-based practices, possibly compromising its effectiveness, they may discard the evidence and rely on their expertise, or they may ignore the complex needs of their clients and rely too much on the research. In studying this, Dr. Lau found that many community therapists actually make pretty good calls when adapting the research, such as lengthening the pacing or omitting small components, with the integrity of the evidence-based practice still intact. Dr. Lau and others “want to give community therapists more support in leaning into the evidence-based practices” and how it can be adapted to fit their clients’ needs.