Research Seminar
How are Professional Interventions with vulnerable
Young People informed?
An analysis of how evidence based practice
influences the delivery of professional interventions
in the third sector.
Justin Dunne – [email protected]
A Journey from Practice
2006 Home Office Drugs Team
of the Year (South-West)
Focus of Research
To understand ‘what works’ and ‘why’?
To give careful consideration of the
‘evidence base’.
To see in what ways a ‘typical’ service is
evidence based.
To try and identify a model for
effective practice for work with
vulnerable young people.
Stage in Research
First draft literature review
 Critique of EBP
 Consideration of the evidence base
Observation Stage (CCP)
 Completion of multiple observations –
Bramah House/Arkells including Foyer,
Education Centre, Mentoring Programme,
Peer Education.
Other Primary Research (to do)
 Semi-structured interviews
 Document analysis
Research approach
My position is that an intervention is an
interaction of a method, a recipient, often a
practitioner as well as the values, culture and
society in which this takes place.
Strauss and Corbin (2008) discuss this as a
constructivist view as it is about constantly
evolving interactions.
‘..human practices [are]…constructed in and out
of interaction between human beings and their
world, and developed and transmitted
within an essentially social context’
(Bryman, 2008, pp.12-13).
What is Evidence-based practice?
Epistemological debate around
Classical Definition
Integrative Model
Common factors
(Mitchell, 2011)
Core belief - policy and practice
should always be informed by
‘research’ evidence.
Classical Definition
Origins of the EBP movement lie within medicine in
the early 1990s. (Hammersley, 2001; Biesta, 2007; Marks 2002)
Cochrane’s criticism - the medical profession did
not organise a summary of controlled trials around
health care. (Walker, 2003)
Influenced by the idea of New Public Management
and was embraced by the New Labour. (Osborne, 1995;
Hammersley, 2012)
Evidence is based on Randomised Controlled Trials
(Empirically Supported Treatments). (Mitchell,2011)
Positivist Approach – ’What works?’.
(Biesta, 2007; Walker, 2003)
For this approach
Example from several meta-analytical studies
regarding prevention and treatment for young
people with or at risk of mental health
problems. (Weisz, et al.,2005)
Results - The average treated child across
these studies was likely to be better off than
75% of young people in control groups.
The same studies conclude that usual practice
where practitioners simply use their judgement
not constrained by EBP interventions or
manuals have an effect size of around zero,
thus indicating no treatment benefit.
For this approach
Fidelity refers to the degree that practitioners
implement programmes as intended by the
programme developers (McGrath, et al., 2006).
ESTs are usually accompanied by
manuals explaining how programmes
should be implemented.
Henggeler, et al (1997) show that
Multi-Systemic therapy for working with youth
behaviour problems decreases in its
effectiveness the less the model for EBP was
adhered to.
For this approach
EBP may also be good for practitioners.
EST ‘Safecare’ designed to reduce child neglect
in the home.
Research found that practitioners that
implemented this programme
experienced lower levels of emotional
exhaustion especially when compared
with what they describe as ‘usual care
Suggestions for effectiveness in this case are
about the programme being a better fit for
client needs and a more useful structure for
organising services. (Aarons, et al, 2009)
Classical Definition
A slogan designed for proponents of a certain
approach to try and discredit others. Who is going to
disagree that practice should not be based on some
kind of evidence? (Hammersley, 2001)
‘naïve realism’ (Walker, 2003, p.148) Controlled trials are
insufficient in constructing our understanding of
reality and do not address the gap between practice
experience and research.
The Health Development Agency agree describing
the positivist approach as, ‘naïve and
counterproductive’ (Marks, 2002, p.4)
The evidence base much be broadened and use
more inclusive methods than those found in
randomised controlled trials.
Against the classical definition
Research evidence is not necessarily the only
kind of knowledge. EBP does not take seriously
the notion of practice experience and tacit
knowledge .
Research-based knowledge is fallible in itself.
An intervention may be evidence based in a lab
What about the skilled practitioner?
Who decides on what a good outcome is?
What about the context outside a lab and the multiple
needs that may exist?
A problem of how research findings are used by
policy makers and practitioners.
(Hammersley, 2001)
Practice Wisdom
Criticism - The EBP movement does not take
seriously the notion of practice experience and
tacit knowledge.
Mitchell (2011, p.208) draws attention to the
idea of ‘practice wisdom’ and defines this
concept, ’…as practice-based knowledge that
has emerged and evolved primarily on the basis
of practical experience rather than from
empirical research.’
This is a different kind of knowledge. It may
also be subject to research. It may reveal ‘why’
and ‘how’ interventions work?
Evidence Based Practice
- Three models
Empirically Supported Treatments (ESTs)
based on randomised controlled trials.
Integrative Approach – ESTs & Practice
Institute of Medicine in America defines EBP as
the ‘integration of best research evidence with
clinical expertise and patient values’
ESTs provide specific psychological treatments
but EBP in Psychology (according to the APA)
should encompass broader ideas around
assessment and therapeutic relationships. EBP is
a decision making process for integrating
multiple streams of research evidence into the
intervention process. (Levant, and Hasan, 2008)
Evidence Based Practice
- Three models
Common factors and characteristics of
effective programmes – from meta reviews
normally of ESTs but sometimes other
Meta-analysis draw out a characteristics to indicate
what they see as EBP for those working with juvenile
and adult offenders.
These include the use of particular interventions like
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, whilst drawing out of
features like the use of sanctions and incentives,
family involvement and assessment processes.
(Henderson et al., 2008)
Evidence Based Practice Myths
Misleading research claims and political rhetoric
based on dubious findings can cause credibility
issues for EBP.
Marks (2002, p.24) discusses EBP myth decisions are based not in the latest and best
evidence but on out of date ideas and evidence.
He terms this Opinion Based Practice.
Myths emerge based of poor or discredited
E.g. ‘Pygmalion in the Classroom’
(Rosenthal and
Jacobson, 1966 in Hammersley, 2003 – see also Elashoff and Snow, 1971
and Rogers, 1982)
Evidence Based Practice Myths
‘Family Intervention Projects: A classic case
of policy-based evidence’ (Gregg, 2010)
The Department for Communities and Local
Government claimed an 84% success rate
in reducing anti-social behaviour in a pilot.
A year later such behaviour had returned in
53% of tracked families (Gregg, 2008).
Evidence Based Practice Myths
Despite these findings, IIP and FIP was
delivered by the Department of Children,
Schools and Families (DCSF) between 2008
and 2010 (Youth Justice Board, no date) with massive
financial investment and being promoted
with the 84% success headline.
Evidence Based Practice Myths
Research has shown a problem known as ‘Peer
Deviancy Training’ which suggests such group
work is more likely to cause harm than do good
amongst young people with problematic
behaviour (Dishion, et al., 1996; Poulin, et al., 2001).
Despite this, IIP have endorsed the use of such
approaches. ‘Occasionally group interventions
may be delivered particularly around
reparation/restorative justice, gang awareness
and the effects of ASB but these programmes
will be tried, tested and measurable’ (Birch, 2009).
Evidence Based Practice Myths
The DCSF was also questioned about how the
Dundee pilot project would be replicated as it
was rolled out in other areas of the country.
EBP is structured – usually manual based –
Fidelity is important to EBP.
DCSF said it was up to practitioners to decide
what interventions to use as long as they
worked towards the stated outcomes of the
Problem of Practice Wisdom
Rodd & Stewart (2009, p.6), ‘For youth workers
to be able to do their job, the relationship is
often seen as central, foundational and a
prerequisite to making other things happen.’
Dishion, et al., (1999, p.760) research found
that, ‘… when comparisons were restricted to
those with whom a counsellor had particularly
good rapport, or those whom the staff believed
they had helped most, the objective evidence
failed to show the program had been beneficial.
Evidence of Harm
Those carrying out research need to make it
clear where interventions or services are failing
(Johnson-Reid, 2011)
Littell (2008) draws attention to the idea of
confirmation bias where evidence contrary to a
hypothesis can be ignored.
Positive results are likely to be made available
for publication in a way that null or negative
results are not (Dishion, 1999; Hopewell et al., 2009).
Unfortunately, when ineffective or harmful
practices are ignored this detracts from the
evidence base for practice leaving it
Evidence of Harm
Hundreds of controlled intervention studies have
focused on adolescent problem behaviour and an
estimated 29% show negative effects (Lipsey, 1992).
McCord (1978) was able to successfully follow up
253 men and their matched partners assigned to a
control group, 30 years after the a study aimed at
preventing young people engaging in criminal
A number of interventions took place including focus
on family problems, tutoring in academic subjects,
medical or psychiatric attention, attendance at
summer camps and regular involvement with
organisations like the Scouts and other community
Evidence of Harm
The program seems not only to have failed to
prevent its clients from committing crimes but
also to have produced negative side effects.
As compared with the control group:
Men who had been in the treatment program were
more likely to commit (at least) a second crime.
Men who had been in the treatment program were
more likely to evidence signs of alcoholism.
Men from the treatment group more commonly
manifested signs of serious mental illness.
Among men who had died, those from the
treatment group died younger.
Evidence of Harm
Men from the treatment group were more likely to
report having had at least one stress-related
disease; in particular, they were more likely to
have experienced high blood pressure or heart
Men from the treatment group tended to have
occupations with lower prestige.
Men from the treatment group tended more often
to report their work as not satisfying.
Questionable Evidence?
ARNOLD, M. E. & HUGHES, J. N. (1999) First Do No Harm: Adverse Effects of
Grouping Deviant Youth for Skills Training. Journal of School Psychology, 37, 99-115.
DISHION, T. J., MCCORD, J. & POULIN, F. (1999) When Interventions Harm: Peer
Groups and Problem Behavior, American Psychologist, 54, 755-764.
the Youth Corrections System Work? Tracking the Effectiveness of Intervention
Efforts With Delinquent Boys in State Custody. Psychological Services, 1, 126-139.
HANDWERK, M. L., FIELD, C. E. & FRIMAN, P. C. (2000) The Iatrogenic Effects of
Group Intervention for Antisocial Youth: Premature Extrapolations? Journal of
Behavioral Education, 10, 223-238.
MCCORD, J. (1978) A Thirty-Year Follow-up of Treatment Effects. American
Psychologist, 33, 284-289.
MCCORD, J. (2002) Counterproductive Juvenile Justice. Australian and New Zealand
Journal of Criminology, 35, 230-237.
MOOS, R. H. (2005) Iatrogenic effects of psychosocial interventions for substance
use disorders: prevalence, predictors, prevention. Addiction, 100, 595-604.
POULIN, F., DISHION, T. J. & BURRASTON, B. (2001) Three-ear Iatrogenic Effects
Associated with Aggregating High-Risk Adolescents in Cognitive-Behavioral
Preventive Interventions. Applied Developmental Science, 5, 214-224.
Why do interventions harm?
McCord (1978) posits certain suggestions
Mixing with adults who deliver interventions whose
values are different from the family concerned may
lead to internal conflicts that manifest themselves is
disease and/or dissatisfaction.
Dependence may be created by interventions that
when no longer available may result in resentment.
High expectations generated by intervention
programmes mean that subsequent experiences tend
to produce symptoms of deprivation.
Why do interventions harm?
McCord (1978) posits certain suggestions
By being involved in a project that delivered services
for a persons welfare, such a person may justify the
received help by perceiving themselves as requiring
Dishion et al. (1999) suggest that teenagers whose
deviant behaviour is reinforced through laughter and
attention are more likely to escalate such behaviour and
that high risk young people develop a cognitive basis for
motivation to behave delinquently because they derive
meaning and values through deviancy training.
My research
Desk based - NICE draw attention to 6 categories of
evidence that they accept for EBP:
evidence from meta-analysis of randomised
controlled trials;
evidence from at least one randomised controlled
evidence from at least one controlled study without
evidence from at least one other type of quasiexperimental study; evidence from nonexperimental descriptive studies, such as
comparative studies, correlation studies and casecontrol studies;
evidence from expert committee reports or opinions
and/or clinical experience of respected authorities
(Marks, 2002, p.7).
My research
Review of Meta-analysis/systematic reviews
Categories include – crime, anti-social behaviour,
substance misuse, mental health, family
interventions, violence, education, multiple
interventions, other.
Robinson, et al. (2011) ‘Preventing suicide in young people:
systematic review.’ The evidence regarding effective
interventions for adolescents and young adults with suicide
attempt, deliberate self-harm or suicidal ideation is extremely
limited. But Cognitive Behavioural Therapy shows promise.
Waldron & Turner (2008) 'Evidence-Based Psychosocial
Treatments for Adolescent Substance Abuse.’ Three
treatment approaches - multidimensional family therapy,
functional family therapy, and CBT emerged as wellestablished models for substance abuse treatment.
My research
Review of evidence from those organisations
concerned with the dissemination of EBP.
National Institute for Clinical Excellence
Cochrane Collaboration and Campbell Collaboration
Centre for Excellence and Outcomes (C4EO)
The Family and Parenting Institute
Research in Practice (RIP)
The National Children's Bureau (NCB)
The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE)
The Centre for Evidence-Informed Policy and Practice
Information (EPPI)
The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Youth Crime
practice with
children and
young people
who offend.
Drug use
among young
people: a
review of
NACRO (2006) Youth
http://www.n Crime
NICE (2006)
http://www.n Misuse
Certain approaches do not work - unstructured psychotherapy,
intervention based upon medical models and measures intended to
punish or deter.
7 ‘McGuire’ Principles for what does work include: 1. Risk
classification to allow intensive targeting; 2. Dosage which refers to
intensity and duration of intervention; 3. Criminogenic need refer to
factors that directly contribute to offending behaviour; 4.
Intervention Modality – cognitive and problem solving approaches
seem to work; 5. Responsivity is where interventions impact upon
behaviour where the input matches the young
person’s preferences for understanding and interpreting new
information; 6. Programme integrity is where a programme has a
clear theoretical rationale, staff are resourced and trained and
committed to the intervention approach; 7. Community base is
important. This is where the intervention is delivered close to the
home environment and makes use of local resources.
What works in prevention- some evidence (not strong) for social
influence approaches; competence enhancement/broad skills
training; cognitive behavioural approaches in targeted populations;
prevention aimed at 11-14 yr olds was more successful; family
interventions especially those aimed at the whole family rather than
the child or the parent. Interactive methods are important. The use
of incentives in family programmes aids retention and collaborative
relationships are needed. Peer education can increase the
effectiveness of a programme but has relatively short-lived effects.
What does not work in prevention – information dissemination;
affective education. Length of programmes and intensity make little
Poor evidence may be the result of poor application of theory to
practice and poor fidelity of implementation.
“Incarceration can exacerbate underlying
difficulties through removal from the community,
interrupting education, reducing employment
prospects and confirming a criminal identity.”
(p.2) Therefore this approach should be a last
“McGuire principles are extremely broad,
providing a framework for intervention rather
than a blueprint for working with young people in
trouble.” (p.4). These may be useful principles to
adhere to.
Generally evidence is weak in concluding what
works. Implications are suggested rather than
based on strong evidence.
Social influence approach indicates a student’s
commitment not to use drugs is important.
Standard education approaches to teaching
young people about drugs do not work and may
increase use. Cognitive Behavioural approaches
aimed at target populations and in the 11-14 age
bracket could be a promising way forward in
Multi-component family focused programmes
are effective are effective but need to be age and
development sensitive. Studies in this area also
show the importance of facilitators with regard
to effectiveness (engagement).
Poor implementation may account for lack of
evidence base for prevention approaches. Lack of
fidelity to programmes makes evaluation difficult.
A lack of UK evaluation studies makes
generalising these findings difficult.
My Research
Primary Observations
No definite sense of EBP – usual
‘It’s about enthusiasm.’
‘Every child is different.’
‘We’ve not helped him.’
‘I’ll do this for another year and then
do teacher training.’
Aarons, G.A., Fettes, L., Luis Jr, E.F. and Sommerfeld, D.H. (2009) ‘Evidence-based practice
implementation and staff emotional exhaustion in children’s services’, Behaviour Research and
Therapy, 47, pp. 954-960.
Biesta, G. (2007) ‘Why “What Works” Won’t Work: Evidence-Based Practice and the Democratic
Deficit in Education Research’, Educational Theory, 57(1) pp. 1-22.
Birch, T. (2009) Email to Justin Dunne, 26th January.
Bryman, A. (2008) Social Research Methods, 3rd edn, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dishion, T., J, Spracklen, K., Andrews, D., W and Patterson, G., R (1996) ‘Deviancy training in
male adolescent friendships’, Behavior Therapy, 27, pp. 373-390.
Dishion, T.J., McCord, J. & Poulin, F. (1999) ‘When Interventions Harm: Peer Groups and Problem
Behavior’, American Psychologist, 54(9), pp. 755-764.
Elashoff, J. D. and Snow, R. E. (eds.) (1971) Pygmalion Reconsidered, Worthington, Ohio: Charles
A. Jones.
Gregg, D. P. (2008) Review of Claimed ‘Longer Term Outcomes’ From Six ASB Family Intervention
Projects. Available from the author at: [email protected]
Gregg, D. P. (2010) Family intervention projects: a classic case of policy-based evidence [Online].
Available at:
(Accessed: 27 June 2012).
Hammersley, M. (2001) 'Some Question about Evidence-based Practice in Education’, Annual
Conference of the British Educational Research Association: Evidence-based practice in education.
University of Leeds 13-15 September. Leeds: University of Leeds, pp1.13.
Hammersley, M. (2003) ‘Too good to be false? The ethics of belief and its implications for the
evidence-based character of educational research, policymaking and practice’, Conference of the
British Educational Research Association. Edinburgh: Heriot-Watt University, pp.1-14. Available at: (Accessed: 30th Sept 2012).
Hammersley, M. (2012) To be published in The Myth of research-based policymaking and practice,
Henderson, C.E., Taxmanb, F.S. and Young, D.W. (2008) ‘A Rasch model analysis of evidencebased treatment practices used in the criminal justice system’, Drug and Alcohol Dependence,
93(1-2), pp. 163-175. Available at: (Accessed: 2 nd Oct 2012).
Henggeler, S.W., Melton, G.B., Brondino, M.J., Scherer, D.G. and Hanley, J.H. (1997)
‘Multisystemic therapy with violent and chronic juvenile offenders and their families: the role of
treatment fidelity in successful dissemination’, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65(5),
pp. 821-833.
Hopewell, S., Loudon, K., Clarke, M.J., Oxman, A.D. and Dickersin, K. (2009) Publication bias in
clinical trials due to statistical significance or direction of trial results (Review), John Wiley and
Sons. Available at:
/MR000006.pdf (Accessed: 30th Sept 2012).
Johnson-Reid, M. (2011) ‘Disentangling system contact and services: A key pathway to evidencebased children’s policy’, Children and Youth Services Review, 33, pp.598-604.
Levant, R.F. and Hasan, N.T. (2008) ‘Evidence-Based Practice in Psychology’, Professional
Psychology: Research and Practice, 39(6), pp. 658–662. Available at:[email protected]&vid=7&hid=106 (Accessed: 2nd Oct 2012).
Lipsey, M.W. (1992) Juvenile delinquency treatment: A meta-analytic inquiry into the variability of
effect. In Cook, T.D., Hooper, H., Corday, D.S., Hartmann, H., Hedges, L.V., Light, R.J., Louis, T.A.
and Musteller, F. (Eds.), Meta-analysis for explanation: A casebook (pp.83-125), New York: Sage.
Littell, J.H. (2008) ‘Evidence-based or biased? The quality of published reviews of evidence-based
practices’, Children and Youth Services Review, 30, pp.1299-1317.
Marks, D.F. (2002) Perspectives on evidence-based practice, London: health Development Agency
Public Health evidence Steering Group. Available at: (Accessed: 13th November 2012).
McCord, J. (1978) ‘A Thirty-Year Follow-up of Treatment Effects’, American Psychologist, 33, pp.
Mitchell, P.F. (2011) ‘Evidence-based practice in real-world services for young people with complex
needs: New opportunities suggested by recent implementation science’, Children and Youth
Services Review, 33, pp.207-216.
Osborne, S.P., Bovaird, T., Martin, S., Tricker,M. and Waterston, P. (1995) ‘Performance
Management and Accountability in Complex Public Programmes’, Financial Accountability &
Management, 11(1), 19-37.
Poulin, F., Dishion, T. J. and Burratson, B. (2001) ‘Three-year Iatrogenic Effects Associated with
Aggregating High-Risk Adolescents in Cognitive-Behavioral Preventive Interventions’, Applied
Developmental Science, 5, pp. 214-224.
Rodd, H., and Stewart, H. (2009) ‘The glue that holds our work together: The role and nature of
relationships in youth work’, Youth Studies Australia, 28(4), pp. 4−10.
Robinson, J., Hetrick, S.E. and Martin, C. (2011) ‘Preventing suicide in young people: systematic
review’, Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 45(1), pp. 3-26. Available at: (Accessed: 27 Nov 2012).
Rogers, C. (1982) A Social Psychology of Schooling: the expectancy process, London: Routledge
and Kegan Paul.
Rosenthal, R. and Jacobson, L. (1968) Pygmalion in the Classroom, New York: Holt, Rinehart and
Strauss, A. and Corbin, J. (1998) Basics of qualitative research techniques and procedures for
developing grounded theory. 2nd edn. London: Sage.
Waldron, H., and Turner, C. (2008) 'Evidence-Based Psychosocial Treatments for Adolescent
Substance Abuse', Journal Of Clinical Child And Adolescent Psychology, 37( 1), pp. 238-261.
Available at:
01256 (Accessed: 27 November 2012).
Walker, K. (2003) ‘Why evidence-based practice now?: A polemic’, Nursing Inquiry, 10(3), pp.145155. Available at: (Accessed: 1st Oct 2012).
Weisz, J.R., Sandler, I.N., Durlak, J.A. and Anton, B.S. (2005) ‘Promoting and Protecting Youth
Mental Health Through Evidence-Based Prevention and Treatment’, American Psychologist, 60(6),
pp. 628-648.
Youth Justice Board (no date) YOTs and third sector invited to bid for funding for Intensive
Intervention Projects. London: Youth Justice Board. Available at: (Accessed: 11 March 2010).

Research Seminar - Insight – University of Gloucestershire