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Systematic review to examine the methods used to adapt evidence-based psychological treatments for adults diagnosed with a mental illness


Question The context for the implementation of evidence-based psychological treatments (EBPTs) often differs from the context in which the treatment was developed, which necessitates adaptations. In this systematic review we build on, and add to, prior approaches by examining the method used to guide such adaptations. In particular, we sought to elucidate the extent to which an empirical process is used.

Study selection and analysis We focused on publications describing adaptations made to EBPTs for adults diagnosed with a mental illness. We searched PubMed, PsycINFO, Embase and Web of Science from database inception to July 2018. Two raters independently coded the articles for the method used to conduct the adaptation, the reason for and nature of the adaptation, and who made the adaptation.

Findings The search produced 20 194 citations, which yielded 152 articles after screening. The most commonly used methods for planned adaptations were literature review (57.7%), clinical intuition (47.0%) and theory (38.9%). The use of data from stakeholder interviews ranked fourth (21.5%) and the use of other types of data (eg, pilot study, experiment, survey, interview) ranked last at fifth (12.1%). Few publications reporting ad hoc adaptations were identified (n=3).

Conclusions This review highlights a need to (a) educate providers and researchers to carefully consider the methods used for the treatment adaptation process, and to use empirical methods where possible and where appropriate, (b) improve the quality of reporting of stakeholder interviews and (c) develop reporting standards that articulate optimal methods for conducting treatment adaptations.

  • adult psychiatry

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