When Do Therapists Stop Using Evidence-Based Practices? Findings from a Mixed Method Study on System-Driven Implementation of Multiple EBPs for Children

Adm Policy Ment Health. 2020 Mar;47(2):323-337. doi: 10.1007/s10488-019-00987-2.


Therapist discontinuation of delivering an evidence-based practice (EBP) is a critical outcome in the community implementation of EBPs. This mixed methods study examined factors associated with therapist discontinuation within a large reimbursement-driven implementation of multiple EBPs in public children's mental health services. The study integrated quantitative survey data from 748 therapists across 65 agencies, and qualitative interviews from a subset of 79 therapists across 14 agencies. Therapists adopted, on average, 2.41 EBPs (SD = 1.05, range = 1-5), and nearly half (n = 355, 47.5%) reported discontinuing at least one EBP. Multi-level models were used to predict the binary outcome of discontinuation, and qualitative analyses were used to expand upon quantitative findings. Quantitative models revealed that therapist factors, including fewer direct service hours per week, a greater number of EBPs adopted, higher emotional exhaustion, and more negative attitudes toward EBPs in general were associated with discontinuation. In addition, EBP-specific factors including more negative perceptions of the particular EBP and lower self-efficacy for delivering the specific EBP predicted discontinuation. Themes from interview responses highlighted the importance of fit of the EBP with the agency's client base, as well as therapist perceptions of adequate EBP training supports, and the alignment of an EBP with therapists' professional goals. Together, the findings suggest the need for strategic sustainment planning interventions that target EBP fit (i.e., fit between adopted EBPs and agency target population, fit between EBP and therapist preferences and career goals) and support therapist self-efficacy in delivering EBPs.

Keywords: Discontinuation; Evidence-based practice; Sustainment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Child
  • Evidence-Based Practice / economics
  • Evidence-Based Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Implementation Science*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Occupational Stress / epidemiology
  • Psychotherapists / psychology*
  • Time Factors