The term ‘evidence-based practice’ (EBP), sometimes called empirically supported treatment (EST), refers to interventions, in health and mental health care, backed by research which shows statistically significant effectiveness of treatment. The movement began in the 1990s, mostly in physical medicine, and then spread rapidly throughout the helping professions. The criteria used to establish research norms, however, tend to altogether elide theoretical, qualitative and case study research; quantitative methods (e.g. random control trials, systematic reviews) are used to narrowly define what counts as evidence. In her recent criticism of RCT, British philosopher of science Nancy Cartwright argues that the RCT is not the ‘gold standard’ it is often assumed to be. She argues that the RCT does not provide evidence or results exportable to other policy or practice environments and ‘that something works “somewhere” is no warranty for it to work “for us” or even that it works “generally”’ (Cartwright, 2007).
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