Defining Evidence-Based Behavioral Practice

Behavioral health practice (here abbreviated behavioral practice) is a multidisciplinary field that promotes optimal mental and physical health by maximizing biopsychosocial functioning. Evidence-based behavioral practice entails making decisions about how to promote healthful behaviors by integrating the best available evidence with practitioner expertise and other resources, and with the characteristics, state, needs, values and preferences of those who will be affected. This is done in a manner that is compatible with the environmental and organizational context. Evidence is comprised of research findings derived from the systematic collection of data through observation and experiment and the formulation of questions and testing of hypotheses.

The diagram below shows three circles containing the elements that need to be integrated in EBBP.

Evidence-Based Behavioral Practice

EBBP diagram explained in the paragraph below

>Spring, B. & Hitchcock, K. (2009) Evidence-based practice in psychology. In I.B. Weiner & W.E. Craighead (Eds.) Corsini’s Encyclopedia of Psychology, 4th edition (pp. 603-607). New York:Wiley

The diagram above may make it appear that integration of the three spheres involved in evidence-based practice could occur simultaneously, but that is not the case. There are five clearly defined steps in EBBP. Using an iterative, cyclical process, the practical outcomes of intervention decisions are then used to develop and/or refine local decision-making policies, generate new questions, inform future searches for best evidence, and/or identify needed research.

More in-depth discussion of the elements of EBBP is found in the white paper entitled Definitions and Competencies of Evidence-Based Behavioral Practice, available for download here.


Gibbs, L. E. (2003). Evidence-Based Practice for the Helping Professions: A Practical Guide with Integrated Multimedia. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole-Thompson Learning. [Website]

Greiner, A.C., Knebel, E., eds. (2003) Health professions education: A bridge to quality. Institute of Medicine Quality Chasm series. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. [Full Text]

Institute of Medicine (U.S.). (2001). Crossing the quality chasm a new health system for the 21st century. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. [Full Text]

Sackett, D. L. (2000). Evidence-based medicine: How to practice and teach EBM. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone. [Website]