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. 2011 Nov;38(6):440-58.
doi: 10.1007/s10488-010-0332-x.

Improvement in Symptoms Versus Functioning: How Do Our Best Treatments Measure Up?


Improvement in Symptoms Versus Functioning: How Do Our Best Treatments Measure Up?

Kimberly D Becker et al. Adm Policy Ment Health. .


We examined the effects of redefining standards of evidence for treatments targeting childhood mental health problems by expanding outcomes beyond symptom reduction to include functioning. Over 750 treatment protocols from 435 randomized controlled trials were rated based on empirical evidence. Nearly two-thirds (63.9%) demonstrated at least a minimum level of evidence for reducing symptoms; however, only 18.8% of treatments demonstrated evidence for reducing functional impairment. Of those treatments with empirical support for symptom reduction, the majority did not demonstrate empirical support for improvement in functioning because measures of functioning were not included in the studies in which these treatments were tested. However, even when measures of functioning were included, it was much more difficult for treatments to achieve improvement. Among treatments that achieved improvement in functioning, the most notable were Collaborative Problem Solving for disruptive behavior and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy plus Medication for traumatic stress because they demonstrated no support for symptom reduction but good support for improvement in functioning. Results are discussed within the context of evaluating the standards of evidence for treatments and the opportunity to move towards a multidimensional framework whose utility has the potential to exceed the sum of its parts.

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