The science and practice in children’s mental health care is filled with both good and bad news. Effective, empirically-based psychosocial treatments exist. Yet, few youth receive these treatments and, when they do, the treatments are often improperly implemented. So how can these interventions reach more vulnerable children? Perhaps, we can take a cue from direct-to-consumer marketing.
Direct-to-consumer marketing communicates messages about medications and other treatments directly to potential customers. When it comes to health care, these customers are patients and clinicians. When pharmaceutical companies started marketing directly to patients, sales exploded. You may remember the friendly Zoloft bubble, Lofty, bouncing across television screens to extol the anti-depressant effects of sertraline. Practicing clinicians are the potential consumers and customers for evidence-based treatments. Last year, my colleagues and I published an article that asked, “if it could work for pills, can it also work for skills?” Our objective? To synthesize a growing literature analyzing the impact of direct marketing to clinicians on use of evidence-based psychological treatments.
Texts, scholarly articles, and manuals are the traditional knowledge distribution channels for clinical evidence. However, working clinicians often lament that scientific articles are not relevant to their care of patients.
Texts, scholarly articles, and manuals are the traditional knowledge distribution channels for clinical evidence. However, working clinicians often lament that scientific articles are not relevant to their care of patients. Think about the research base as an excellent fine dining establishment. Practitioners may find the environment stuffy and formal, but they like the food. In order to get the nourishment and avoid the fuss, practitioners have to take their meal home. If we want to translate research findings into better clinical care procedures that improve young people’s lives, the skills and knowledge communicated in scientific publications have to be portable.
There are several possible remedies to this information log jam. First, the science supporting effective interventions must be more accessible. Researchers and academics should be skilled in making their findings more user-friendly. One fascinating initiative is a training program at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. These courses coach scientists to disseminate their findings in an empathic, cogent, genuine, and creative manner through improvisational theater techniques. Researchers learn to leave jargon and arcane language at the door when talking to consumers/practitioners.
Once academics and researchers are equipped with engaging presentation skills, various non-traditional distributional channels can be developed.
Once academics and researchers are equipped with engaging presentation skills, various non-traditional distributional channels can be developed. For instance, internet platforms, podcasts, Twitter, blogs, radio and television broadcasts, and YouTube videos are just some ideas. In fact, several creative projects are underway. For instance, the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies is quite active on Twitter and invites experts to curate their Twitter feed as a way to disseminate recent advances. The Society for Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology hosts a robust internet site which boasts informational videos on effective child therapy. New York University’s Langone Medical Center offers educational programming via Sirius XM Doctor Radio. In particular, the show, About Our Kids, is specifically tailored to provide information about evidence-based treatments for young people.
Private practices, medical centers, outpatient clinics, and community agencies are home for mental health treatment. When dissemination efforts take their messages to the streets by targeting practitioners directly through easily accessible distribution channels such as Twitter, Facebook, internet sites, blogs, radio and television broadcasts, and podcasts all roads may lead home, to improved clinical care resulting from better translation of research into practice.
Feature image: Wall Boat, Kid Playing football. Public domain.